NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Lipscomb’s Carlyle Nusbaum, “a real live niece of her Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July,” has received more than her share of patriotic-themed gifts through the years.
But nothing compares to the feeling she experienced last year when she first donned a U.S.A. volleyball team jersey as part of the Collegiate National Team (CNT) that competed in Europe in the European Global Challenge in Croatia.
“It’s awesome to put the U.S.A. jersey on,” Nusbaum said. “I have always been a patriot. I get a lot of U.S.A. stuff to wear on my birthday.
“It was a crazy feeling to put the jersey on for the first time we played. It was like, I am here. I have made it. I am in another country representing the United States. There were other teams from the United States there, but we were the only team wearing the American flag on our jerseys.”
This year she gets another chance to wear the red, white and blue as one of 12 players selected for the U.S.A. Women’s College National Team China Tour, the highest level college team.
Nusbaum, one of four outside hitters on the roster, will train and play in games in China from May 20-31.
“I am just extremely proud of her and excited for the upcoming experience,” Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “It is amazing to think where this sport has taken her and the other girls.
“I am glad that she can add this to that list. This says a great deal about this program and the people that make it so special.”
Nusbaum, a rising senior and ASUN Conference Player of the Year the last two seasons, was selected to the team after participating in the National Team Open Tryouts March 2-4 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“The experience is huge and will add to her confidence going into her senior year,” Rosenthal said. “Carlyle continues to fine tune her game, and that was evident from her play last summer and what it meant for her and us in the fall. Carlyle had arguably her best statistical year last year.”
Second time’s the charm
It was a different situation in many ways for Nusbaum during the tryouts this time around. She knew what to expect, but she was the only representative from Lipscomb. Last year, her teammates Brittany Thomas and Lauren Anderson were competing for spots. Rosenthal was an evaluator, and former associate head coach Billy Ebel was an instructor.
“Last year I had no idea what the schedule was going to be and what they were going to look for,” Nusbaum said. “I was just in awe of everything with all of these girls from big schools.
“I thought it was going to be a once in a lifetime experience for me. I didn’t think I would ever come back.”
Nusbaum may have been alone in her quest this time around, but she brought a healthy dose of confidence with her.
“I knew I could compete with these girls,” Nusbaum said. “The coaches saw something in me they didn’t see in the other girls. I had been there before, and the coaches knew who I was.
“Brittany Thomas told me before I left, `You’re a vet now. You know what’s going on. You know how to win and impress those people.’ That helped me.”
Nusbaum knows the fact she had played on a team the previous year was an influence in helping her be selected this time around.
“I put a lot more pressure on myself because I knew I was capable of making a team,” Nusbaum said. “I had to perform as well as I did last year, if not better.
“They told us the stats we had during tryouts were part of the selection process. But they did look at whether we made a team last year, no matter what the level of the team was. I know it definitely made some type of impact to have played last year.”
The average height of the team is 6-foot-3. Nusbaum, 5-10, is the shortest player on the roster and one of four players under six feet in height. Her lack of size is something she has always dealt with. She never has let it stand in her way,
“It is not every day you see a 5-10 outside who can play with 6-8 or 6-9 girls,” Nusbaum said. “It is cool to show them that size doesn’t really matter.
“I have always been a smaller hitter. I have always had to figure out how to score against taller players. Through my training I know I am able to score. I can be fearless.”
The head coach for the China team is Chris Thomas, the coach at the University of Illinois. Assistant coaches are Joe Trinsey from USA Volleyball High Performance and Natalie Morgan from Loyola-Marymount.
Rosenthal has watched Nusbaum’s playing style develop over the years, and he knows the main reasons the U.S.A. coaching staff chose her from the hundreds of tryout participants.
“I truly believe that when most people watch Carlyle their attention is gravitated toward her superior athleticism,” Rosenthal said. “Carlyle is a special athlete and is able to do things that only elite athletes can do.
“You see it on a daily basis when people see her for the first time in practice, matches, or even the weight room. She’s one of those athletes that people enjoy watching do their craft.”
Rosenthal credits Nusbaum’s versatility on the court as another key reason.
“I think on the technical side, Carlyle is an extremely talented all-around player,” Rosenthal said. “With the limited subs in international volleyball (6 subs opposed to 12 in college), Carlyle’s talents become even more sought after because she can pass and play defense, along with her strong offensive game.”
Nusbaum, based on her experiences in international competition last year, expects a series of intense matches.
“It [international volleyball] is pretty different,” Nusbaum said. “All the girls last year were very athletic. We play with the same ball used in men’s volleyball, so the ball floats a lot more and travels a lot faster.
“Every team we played against that was not American last year was scrappy and could pick everything up. They fought for every single point. In American volleyball it is a little bit slower pace.”
Nusbaum, from Overland Park, Kansas, believes that in addition to her skills on the court, the evaluators realized just how much she loves to play volleyball.
“I showed them how much I love the game and how much I love to compete for every single point,” Nusbaum said. “Stats do matter in competition.”
Major stepping stone
With her selection last year Nusbaum started knocking on the door of a possible spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. As the result of her being named to the CNT-China Team, that knock is getting a little louder.
Nusbaum is aware what could be at stake in terms of her continuing international play for the U.S.A. beyond 2018. The Summer Olympics will be played in Japan in 2020.
“It is very close and it is crazy to think about,” Nusbaum said. “If I were to go next year to Colorado Springs, it would be to try out for the Women’s National Team instead of the college team.”
The selection is a major accomplishment for Nusbaum, but it is an equally impressive reflection on Lipscomb’s volleyball program.
“This is another `BIG’ step for the program.” Rosenthal said. “I think that is one of the most interesting pieces to the program--the upward trend that continues to happen 16 years later.
“Lipscomb Volleyball continues to be a major player in the world of women’s volleyball. Once again Carlyle and the other athletes will be representing their countries and their universities as they travel through Asia. Not many envisioned this 16 years ago.”