COLLEGE STATION-- The Texas A&M volleyball team reported for practice on Sunday, two months earlier than the usual August reporting date. But this summer will not be the norm for the Aggies, who depart June 11 for a two-week, seven-match trip through Europe.
“Not only can a trip like this really benefit our team chemistry and our team togetherness, but these extra days, 10 days of training and two weeks of tour, gives us 24 additional days of practice this summer,” A&M head coach Laurie Corbelli said. “That is time on the court at a time when most other teams aren’t going to be on the court.
“Also the culture and style of play is a little bit different overseas. I want this team to learn and absorb some new ideas, new ways of playing the game, new shots, new strategies and different ways to make adjustments.”
Ten returning letterwinners -- including five starters -- from last year’s team that went 21-10 and narrowly missed out on a trip to the NCAA tournament are participating in two-a-day drills in preparation for the trip. In addition, four of the five newcomers listed on the Aggies’ roster for the upcoming season, including high school All-Americans and freshmen-to-be Kelsey Black and Chelsea Ringel, enrolled at A&M in January and are eligible to practice and go on the foreign training tour.
With 14 players participating in spring drills, Corbelli felt it was a prime time to take the team on a foreign tour, which the NCAA allows a team to do once every four years.
“This happens to be a year where we have a lot of returners, and I feel like they are ready to really take advantage of a trip like this,” Corbelli said. “Another one of the main reasons was that we got to bring our freshmen in early, and they get to go on the trip.
“In the spring, we had a chance to train with a lot of players, so to have the trip this summer is a way to emphasize the things that we learned and worked on during our spring training and competition season.”
The Aggies depart College Station on June 11 and arrive in Rome, Italy, on June 12. A&M plays its first match on June 13. Following a day of sightseeing in Rome on June 14, the team then departs June 15 for a short stop in Venice before heading to Lignano Sabbiardo, Italy, where the Aggies will play two matches against the Italian Junior National Team on June 16 and 17.
On June 18, A&M travels to Maribor, Slovenia, for a three-match series against the Slovenian Youth and/or Junior National Team, June 19-21.
“Just given the fact that we are playing the junior national team from Italy and the youth or junior national team from Slovenia shows that we will be facing very strong competition,” Corbelli said. “These are countries that in the past have had very athletic players and very developed systems in terms of their junior clubs. Many of the top teams from America that have traveled over there in the past three or four summers have competed to the max with these teams, playing five gamers against very strong competition.”
The Aggies head to Prague, Czech Republic, on June 22, making a five-hour sightseeing stop in Vienna, Austria, along the way. A&M plays its final match on June 23 and will spend its last day sightseeing in Prague before heading back to the U.S. on June 25.
The trip to Europe, which is being supported in part by private donors who have contributed money to the 12th Man Foundation on behalf of A&M volleyball, will be a first for several players who have never left the U.S., but it will be a homecoming of sorts for junior setter Jola Kelner, who hails from Bielsko-Biala, Poland. Her family will see her play collegiate volleyball for the first time as they follow the team throughout its tour.
It has been 11 years since Corbelli first led an A&M team on a foreign trip, taking the Aggies to Kobe, Japan. The 1997 team was led by a group of upperclassmen, including senior outside hitter Kristie Smedsrud, who would set the school record for career kills, and junior outside hitter and future Olympian Stacy Sykora. Following the tour, the team produced one of the best seasons in school history at that time, coming within one game of advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time and finishing the year 26-8 and ranked a then all-time high No. 13 in the final national poll.
“The trip to Japan just shows how a trip like that can benefit the team,” Corbelli said. “When teams travel for long periods of times at faraway places, it is an opportunity to gel and experience things that are out of the ordinary, and it can really bring a group together. Plus, simply because the style of play is so different, it makes you have to be so much more aware of what you do on the court. Anytime you increase awareness, you will typically see a group of talented players respond to that. Not only do we hope to see that this year, but hopefully this trip will continue to help our team understand the importance of being competitive at every point, as well as the preparation and mental parts of the game.
“Regardless of this trip, we are in for a season that hopefully will trump many of our past seasons, and this experience can just be the icing on the cake for the team.”
Fans will be able to follow the Texas A&M volleyball team on www.AggieAthletics.com, where match recaps, player journals, photo galleries and videos clips will be made available throughout the team’s European tour.
2008 Texas A&M Alphabetical Roster
No. Player Pos. Ht. Cl-Exp Hometown (High School/College)
12 Sarah Ammerman OH 6-2 Jr-2L Parker, Colo. (Chaparral)
15 Jenny Banse OH 6-0 Jr-2L San Antonio, Texas (Churchill)
25 Mary Batis OH 6-0 Jr-2L San Antonio, Texas (Clark)
2 Kelsey Black OH 5-11 Fr-HS Amarillo, Texas (Amarillo)
4 Kelsey Bryant RS 6-2 Sr-3L Austin, Texas (Westlake)
3 Stephanie Cadavid DS/L 5-8 Jr-2L San Antonio, Texas (Clark)
14 Darla Donaldson MB 6-2 Sr-1L Murrieta, Calif. (Chaparral/Cal State Northridge)
11 Dylan Faulkner S/DS 5-10 Jr-TR Austin, Texas (St. Michael’s Academy)
5 Jola Kelner S 6-0 Jr-2L Bielsko-Biala, Poland (Stefana Zeromskiego)
7 Stephanie Minnerly MB 6-2 Fr-HS Arlington, Texas (Martin)
10 Jillian Phillips MB 6-1 Sr-3L Marble Falls, Texas (Marble Falls)
17 Cara Quayle MB 6-1 Jr-2L Greenwood Village, Colo. (Cherry Creek)
13 Chelsea Ringel OH 6-0 Fr-HS Arlington, Texas (Martin)
9 Kristen Schevikhoven S 5-9 Jr-1L Centennial, Colo. (Eaglecrest/Northern Colorado)
1 Stephanie Wells* RS 6-1 Fr-HS Amarillo, Texas (Amarillo)
* Will join the team in August
Volleyball Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Laurie Corbelli (University of San Francisco '88), 16th season
Associate Head Coach: John Corbelli (UC Santa Barbara '79), 16th season
Assistant Coach: Robyn Romansky (Texas A&M ’04), 5th season