NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This summer Lipscomb setter Kayla Ostrom will turn in her purple-and-gold school jersey for a red, white and blue Team USA volleyball jersey. It is an opportunity that came very close to not being fulfilled.
When Lipscomb volleyball coach Brandon Rosenthal first called Ostrom to tell her she had been invited to the open tryouts for the USA Olympic team, he didn’t receive the answer he expected.
“No thanks”, was the answer from Ostrom, an athlete whose talent is exceeded only by her humbleness.
But Ostrom gave the invitation a little more thought and a great deal of prayer and decided to head west to Colorado Springs, Colorado to the Olympic Training Facility Feb. 19-21.
She talked to several people but she credits Shannon O’Brien, director of women’s spiritual formation at Lipscomb, for helping her change her mind.
“I wasn’t too excited about going,” Ostrom said. “I didn’t realize my potential. After I talked with Shannon I knew in my heart God wanted me to go there. With only one year of volleyball left I had this opportunity to embrace a wonderful platform like volleyball that not everyone has the opportunity to do.
“The weekend reminded me to always seek joy in both the play of volleyball and the costly work that it requires. It reminded me to play with reckless abandon on the court, free of all fear and worry, and in total surrender to the Giver of all good things, remembering that volleyball is indeed an incredible gift. The opportunity to try out was a huge gift.”
Ostrom will be a part of the U.S. Collegiate National Team-Indianapolis program. She is one of 36 players named to the squad which is part of USA Volleyball’s High Performance pipeline.
She will train and compete from June 21-30 in Indianapolis. The program will be divided into three teams, each consisting of 12-players. Those teams, chosen during training, will compete in a round-robin tournament June 26-29 at the USA Volleyball Girl’s National Championships. It will serve as a second tryout for the USA National Team.
Ostrom knew where she was rated, but she was still surprised when she received the email informing her she would be part of one of the three domestic teams playing this summer. The tryouts were divided into four sessions. Each day she saw where she was ranked and she kept climbing the ladder.
“I knew I had a chance going forward to be on one of the teams,” Ostrom said. “It was just crazy. I went in with no expectations.”
Ostrom certainly had the credentials.
She was the 2015 Atlantic Sun Setter of the Year and helped guide Lipscomb to both the regular season and tournament championships. She was First Team All-Conference and a member of the A-Sun All-Tournament Team. She was in the top five in the nation in both assists and assists per set. She capped off the year with an honorable mention for the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-South Region Team.
“Kayla is one of the hardest working people I have ever come across and one of the most humble people I have ever come across,” Rosenthal said. “To have this honor and be able to do this 45 minutes from her house is quite a coincidence in some regards.”
Rosenthal waited for daily reports on Ostrom’s progress during the try outs. He sensed from the first session that something special might be happening.
“I knew what time her sessions were,” Rosenthal said. “Billy Ebel (associate head coach) was out there too but he didn’t see all of Kayla’s sessions. After each session waited for phone calls to see how she was doing.
“The first day was an important day because you have to get into the mix. She had a great first day and then she had a great second day. It was like. `oh boy this could really happen’.
“She really didn’t know her hitters. They were from all across the country. She had to find out where they liked the ball set and she had to do it as quickly as possible.”
Ostrom saw the chance to work with so many different players to be a challenge, but an enjoyable one.
“Playing with girls from all over the country was way more fun than I expected,” Ostrom said. “There was so much positive energy in the gym. Everyone brought their best effort.
“The drills were sometimes crazy, and setting 6-foot-5 middles was a little tricky at first, but overall competing in the drills was freeing and exhilarating. I approached the weekend with the mindset that I was going to have fun and play free, with no pressure attached. I was extremely thankful that is how it played out.”
Ostrom is one of a series of Lipscomb players to have received an invitation to the open tryouts. Jake Pease, Alex Kelly, Jewell Dobson and Lauren Ford have all been a part of the competition. Ford was named an alternate in 2015.
“For Kayla it is a huge accomplishment,” Rosenthal said. “Everybody who has gone out there and tried out has helped this come about. “For the program it is just another step. We are always looking to push the program forward. It is becoming more and more apparent what Lipscomb is doing on a national scale.
“She gets to put on the United States jersey. That is pretty awesome to be recognized as one of the top players in the country. I couldn’t be more proud of her. For me, it is the ultimate to represent your country.”
While Ostrom admits she hadn’t spent much time on trying to figure out how she will feel when she puts on the USA jersey, she knows what her being a part of the national collegiate team means to the Lipscomb program.
“The most meaningful part of the weekend for me was how it slowly started to reawaken my love for competitive volleyball,” Ostrom said. “As collegiate athletes, we are often pushed to our breaking points, both by our coaches and teammates, and by ourselves.
“We live the life of never being “quite good enough.” In competitive sports, this mindset is critical because it pushes us to reach the next level. But it can also cripple us in fear of failing and separate the rigor of work and achievement from the joy of play. Competing at a high level, and what it means to compete every day, is something I can bring back to the team.”