|Walker heads to national tryout|
MOSCOW - The next time Allison Walker puts on a jersey to play volleyball, it won't have number two on the front, or say Idaho on the back, and she won't be punishing the hardwood at Memorial Gym with her crowd-pleasing kills.
Instead, the 6-foot-1 sophomore outside hitter will wear number 71W for the Blue Group at the USA Women's Volleyball National Team open tryout at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Walker will be one of 208 collegiate volleyball players at the tryout Feb. 10-12. Because she has collegiate eligibility remaining, Walker is not eligible to earn a spot on the USA National team, but she can be selected to train with the National team, or earn a spot on one of four USA Women's Senior A2 teams, which will compete at the USA Girl's Junior National Championships in July.
"I'm expecting a lot of good volleyball," Walker said of the upcoming tryout. "There's going to be a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches. I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
Walker said she first learned about the program last summer, while she was representing the USA at the China-USA Challenge Invitational Tournament in China. After talking it over with her father and later Idaho's coaching staff, she decided to go.
"I definitely want to meet some new people and make some contacts," Walker said. "I just want to do my best and if I do get invited to a team that would be sweet. But I'll just try my best and make the best out of the experience."
Idaho assistant coach Brian Lamppa, who routinely sent players to the tryout while he was an assistant at Washington State, said he and the rest of Idaho's coaching staff believed Walker would be a good candidate for the tryout.
"We as a staff talked about it to see if there was anyone we felt would want to do that, and Allison was one we felt it would be a good opportunity for," Lamppa said. "She can compare herself to a variety of athletes from around the country and obviously get some looks. (Idaho head) Coach (Debbie) Buchanan was very much wanting to create these opportunities for her student-athletes."
Competing for a spot on the USA National Team against the top volleyball players in the country may seem intimidating, but Walker said she tries not to think about that.
"It makes it a little cooler that I'm going to try out to play for a USA program, but you have to go out and play your best and know it's just another volleyball weekend," she said. "One step at a time. I'm just going and see what happens next, but it's definitely awesome to go and play with these really good players and be a part of that and get to know the other players and have this experience with them."
With coaches evaluating over 200 players in just three days, Lamppa said the process can be intense, but thinks Walker's skillset will help her succeed.
"It's always hard because you have a couple hundred people there and they put you in these groups and sometimes you have to adjust. You're doing a lot of playing and they're doing a lot of evaluating," Lamppa said. "She's a pretty athletic kid. She definitely hits the ball hard enough and she does some good things with passing. You're playing with people from all over the country who might run different styles of systems. We run a very fast outside system. If the setter she's playing with can do it then I think she'll do really well."
While a spot with one of the USA National teams is the only tangible thing on the line over the weekend for Walker, the contacts she makes could end up being just as important as a roster spot for her future, as it could open up doors for her to play internationally after college if she chooses that path.
"It's a good way to get your name out there and meet a lot of people and get seen by a lot of coaches," Walker said. "I have thought about it (playing after college). I don't know, but it would always be an option. It just depends on what happens with life."
"She will have those opportunities if she wants to pursue them," Lamppa said of Walker's potential to play volleyball internationally after college. "It's up to her, but she has to be thinking about that now and not when she's done here. You put those ideas in their heads and see if that's something they want to think about, if they want to be working towards those goals. If you're thinking about it and working towards that then that's another way to motivate them and get them to realize that there is more to our sport than just the four or five years in our program. If you want to get paid to travel, there are a lot of good opportunities."
While Walker is trying not to get too far ahead of herself with post-college plans, or put too much pressure on herself to earn a spot on one of the USA National teams, she said there is one thing her and Coach Lamppa hope she can avoid at this weekend's tryout.
"Brian keeps telling me to just not end up on the bottom court, so hopefully that won't happen," she said. "My goal is to get on either the top court or top two."