CSU volleyball spends summer abroad in preparation for 2012 season

It was a once in a lifetime summer for the CSU volleyball team.

The Rams visited France and Italy on a European tour, and senior middle blocker Breion Paige was selected to the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball A2 Tournament.

They played six matches total in Italy, three in the country’s southern region, one near Rome and two in Milan against the Italian Junior National team.

“We all grew a lot closer as a team. We learned different styles of playing and it made us better,” redshirt sophomore setter Deedra Foss said.

The team trailed the Italian Junior National Team 2-0 in their final match of the tour, but rallied in the last three sets to win the match.

“It was great to watch. That team is very good, and we went into playing with a different ball, in a weird environment, in a weird facility, and played really well,” coach Tom Hilbert said.

Overall CSU finished the volleyball section of their tour 6-0, but also enjoyed the bonding experiences of travelling through Europe as a team.

“The whole theme of our trip, that we even talked about before we left, was that this is a once in a lifetime experience,” senior opposite hitter Dana Cranston said. “We’re never going to be here again doing this tour with our team, so I think we didn’t take it for granted. We used the team bonding moments and the games to enhance our connection together.”

The volleyball summer wasn’t yet over for Paige, however, as she competed in the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball A2 Tournament in early July after the team returned from Europe.

Athletes not selected to U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team with collegiate eligibility remaining were eligible for the program, and Paige was one of 48 players to attend.

“I feel really blessed,” Paige said when she was selected in June. “I just have to thank God, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and not everyone gets the chance to do this.”

Her team of 12 won the gold medal at the tournament despite finishing round robin play with the lowest possible seed.

“It was such a blessing playing with those girls and competing with them. Them pushing me and working with new coaches is really great to bring back here to CSU,” Paige said.

Now the Rams will have to put together what they learned over the summer in their fall camp. The team reported for practice Aug. 8, and will play its first game Aug. 24 at home against Virginia.

“It makes a lot of two-a-days a lot easier having that connection already, and then it’s already really strong so the new players can feed off of that,” Cranston said. “It kind of takes some pressure off them, which I think helps a lot.”

Assistant Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at sports@collegian.com.