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June 18, 2007
The exams are over. Dorm rooms and apartments are empty; the cars have been packed and unloaded. Books have been sold back and grades are submitted, as summer 2007 has begun for the 42,000 students at Penn State University. Some choose to return to their hometowns for jobs or internships, while others flock to the beaches in hopes of a summer tan. For two members of the Penn State men's volleyball team, neither of these options seems fitting.
Juniors Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) and Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio) have earned a spot on the 2007 United States Junior National Team, returning for their second year with the squad. Anderson, an opposite, and Holt, a middle hitter, will first train with their teammates in Lake Placid, New York, before traveling to Italy to take on various European teams. The final destination of the summer is Morocco, where the team will compete for the World Championship.
Last summer, both Anderson and Holt played for the 2006 US Junior National Team, earning a second-place finish at the NORCECA Zone Championship in Monterrey, Mexico. The team's success last summer has qualified them for a spot in the World Championships in Morocco later this summer.
"It was a great experience to play in front of a crowd that was not necessarily American," said Anderson. "The fans were behind us in most of the matches even though they were not from the U.S., and that is what we hope happens again this year."
The 2007 U.S. Junior National Team consists of both high school and college students from around the country. As rising juniors, both Anderson and Holt will be two of the oldest players on the squad.
"We take on more of a leadership role on the court because of our experience in the collegiate matches in the past two years," said Anderson. "This year, as juniors, I feel we will again bring more experience in big time matches."
When asked if they wish they could have some down time from their sport and relax during the summer months, both players shook their heads.
"As much as I love being home, this opportunity is like no other," said Holt. "Not many people have chances like this. It has been an amazing experience traveling and playing the sport I love."
Anderson agreed. "I would just like to be able to relax over the summer, but it is totally worth the sacrifice to play with the guys. I really enjoy the competitiveness of the other teams (we play against). Being a part of a team that won a bid to the World Championships is special."
Many of the players Anderson and Holt call "teammates" during the summer months with the U.S. Junior National Team are standing on the opposite side of the net during the regular season.
"It is becoming more and more fun when we compete versus them in collegiate matches," said Anderson.
Two more familiar faces will join Anderson and Holt on their journey abroad this summer, as sophomore middle hitter Max Lipsitz (Williamsville, N.Y.) and sophomore opposite William Price (Laytonsville, Md.) have also been named to the training squad with hopes of making the final roster. With four members of the Blue and White looking to year capture the World Championship title, summer is looking quite bright for this year's Junior National Team.
"I feel playing year round makes me a better player," said Holt. "There is always more to learn and more things you can do to make yourself improve. We will go into Morocco and hope to fly home with a little something extra: a gold medal."