Kashauna Williams enters the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado for Team USA tryouts drained from the high altitudes and jet-lag, yet still determined to make the cut.
When Williams landed at Colorado Springs on March 1, 2019 where found herself without any of her teammates. She expected two players to join her, but they were unable due to reasons outside their control.
“Most of the people came with their teammates,” Williams said. “I’m used to doing things by myself, but it would have been nice if my teammates were there to talk to and room with.”
Outside hitter Allison Martinez was competing for the school’s Beach Volleyball team and defensive specialist Hailey Harward was recovering from a toe fracture. Williams said she felt like an outcast compared to others arriving in groups.
Not having the familiarity of her teammates around was trying, but she didn’t allow it to affect her play or team chemistry.
“I wish my teammates were there [so I could] have someone to talk to,” Williams said. “I eventually made friends.”
The three days for Williams may have felt long, but she’s already made enough of a name for herself in the college circuit.
Williams planned on being an outside hitter, the position she prefers, but that soon changed once she saw 60 other people trying out for the same spot. As a result, she opted to try out for opposite hitter, a position with half as many applicants.
She was also familiar with those previously in the program, having attended Team USA tryouts two years prior in Anaheim. It was then that she made the team and spent plenty of time with players and trainers.
“You are a lot more comfortable with people you know,” head coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “Luckily a lot of people know Kashauna in the volleyball world, so she did know some players that she played with previously in club [volleyball].”
Williams felt confident on the court, but many of the players had not seen her in action for two years. With that, chemistry with the team didn’t happen instantly.
“Everyone has different playing styles [and] different paces but it was kind of frustrating,” Williams said. “I jump a lot higher than most girls so most of the sets were fast shoots, so I was just trying to adjust to everyone’s sets.”
Williams needed to adapt her game to this new setting and playing style and as a result she wasn’t the high-flying player that consistently puts pressure on the other team’s defense.
“You go into a situation where you’re doing high level training with all of the best players in the country,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said. “[That being said] she was pretty happy with her tryout cause you’re training with players you never play with.”
Williams’s talent came across, and she was still able to make the team as an alternate. She never moved beyond alternate due to the depth of quality players, but that isn’t stopping her from trying out to claim the spot next year.
McKienzie-Fuerbringer said Williams is going to be back better than ever, adding that her high ceiling will not only help the Beach this year, but also help her chances at getting a Team USA spot next summer.
Williams has gotten to the point where she plans on being more proactive when it comes to trips after experiencing the high altitude of Colorado. This week the Long Beach women’s volleyball team heads to the University of Florida for a tournament in Gainesville and is preparing for the weather.
“I’m gonna try to play through it and drink water in the plane, while I’m walking, everywhere,” Williams said. “I’m gonna try and stay hydrated.”
Williams plans on continuing to work hard and earn a starting spot on the Team USA roster. In next year’s tryouts her goal is to adjust to every player’s set because, “that’s what a good outside hitter should do.”