Sophomore middle blocker Heather Gneiting, head coach Heather Olmstead and trainer Dan Graham completed a successful tour of Japan as part of the U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team.
The team toured the Japan May 19-30, playing six matches against various national and university teams from around the country. The tour was meant to help up-and-coming collegiate players gain experience overseas and for USA Volleyball to evaluate the athletes for future international competition.
“The opportunity to coach the USA CNT Japan team and represent USA Volleyball was amazing,” Olmstead said. “The team learned a lot about the Japanese style of play and their culture. They came together quickly and played a lot of good volleyball in a short amount of time.”
The team first defeated Nippon Sport Science University 3-1 (25-16, 25-23, 23-25, 25-21) in a match held in Tokyo on May 22. Gneiting had four blocks as the team out-blocked NSSU 22-2 for the match.
From May 23-25, the squad played three matches in Kawasaki, first against the Japan Women’s U20 Team and then two against the Japan World University Games Team. The United States took a 3-1 defeat (25-18, 21-25, 25-16, 25-18) against the U20 team with a tough serve. Gneiting led all players at the net, coming up with five blocks.
In the first match against the University Games team, the U.S. fell 2-1 (23-25, 27-25, 25-18) with Gneiting picking up a block and two kills. In game two, each team took two sets (25-22, 23-25, 20-25, 25-19) with Gneiting getting three kills and three blocks.
“I learned a lot from playing in Japan,” Gneiting said. “Though we were taller than the teams we played, they were good at problem solving and finding ways to score which is something I want to learn from and improve.”
The U.S. and the Japan U20 Team played again on May 26 with the host country winning 3-1 (25-12, 27-25, 27-29, 25-19) at the Japanese Olympic Training Center in Kita, Tokyo. Gneiting led the players with all blocks, totaling four, to go with four kills.
The team finished out the tour with a match against the Okayama Seagulls, falling 4-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-17, 25-19, 16-14) in a planned five-setter. Gneiting had a tour-best nine kills and one block.
In addition to the matches, the team also enjoyed sight-seeing, trying new foods and hanging out with their Japanese counterparts.
“I enjoyed being able to interact and eat with the girls we played,” Gneiting said. “They were very welcoming and kind to us and it was fun getting to know them and learn more about the culture of Japan.”
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