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Dakota's Carli Snyder waits her turn to serve a ball to one of her teammates during a team drill at Blue Water Sports Center. (Photo by Nicholas J. Barry)


VOLLEYBALL: Dakota's Snyder to try out for national team

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Carli Snyder’s volleyball resume gets more impressive by the day.

The Dakota sophomore outside hitter is already a two-time All-State selection and has committed to play volleyball at the University of Florida.

Later this week, Snyder will head to Colorado Springs and the Olympic Training Center as one of 24 players around the country to be invited by USA Volleyball to participate in the girls national volleyball team tryout.

“It’s a huge deal to be considered one of the top 24 players in the nation and to do it as a sophomore is definitely something you don’t hear about very often,” said Dakota coach Tracie Ferguson.

“We did have the Angie McGinnis, Katie Price era (at Fraser) but it’s very exciting to know that we’re going to have one of our own coming through. It’s an awesome opportunity for Carli and it’s awesome for us to watch her go through the process of it.”

Snyder, an outside hitter who plays for the prestigious Michigan Elite volleyball team during the offseason, earned her invitation to the national tryout at a regional camp in Indianapolis in late March.

“I didn’t find out until May, so for a month and a half I was wondering, ‘am I going to make it?’” she said. “Finally, they posted it on their website, but they didn’t say names. They had your little PIN code and when I saw mine I was so relieved.”

There were some 200 girls at each of the 12 regional tryouts and only 24 players were chosen from that group of more than 1,000 of the best high school players in the country. From that group of 24, the 12-player team will be chosen to represent the United States in the Girls’ Youth Continental Championships in the Dominican Republic from June 24 through July 2.

Snyder will leave for Colorado on Thursday morning and return home late Sunday night.

“School on Monday is going to be interesting, but at least I’m going to be playing volleyball all day when I’m there,” she said. “Friday, Saturday and Sunday it’s just go, go, go -- 12 hours a day.”

Snyder is the first Michigan player to try out for the team since Alicia Glass of Leland made it in 2004. Glass later played at Penn State. Fraser’s McGinnis was the last Macomb County player to be invited to a tryout.

“I was really excited to find out,” Snyder said. “It’s nice to know that all the hard work I’ve been putting in since I was about 12 -- everything I’ve been working for has paid off. All the coaches I’ve been with and the teams I’ve been on, they’re really proud of me.”

Perhaps the biggest influence on Carli’s volleyball career is her sister, Kelsey, an outstanding player herself. Kelsey is the setter for Ohio Dominican, and she led the Panthers in assists as a freshman last season.

Kelsey was playing for her seventh grade team when the volleyball bug first bit Carli.

At first, Kelsey wasn’t too happy about it.

“She said, ‘Mom, Carli copies everything I want to do. Can’t she just do her own thing?’”, Carli said with a laugh. “Now she’s really happy for me. She loves to play, just like I do. We’re in the backyard almost every night, even after practice.

“We play one-on-one. And we get each other better. Playing with my sister makes me better. Playing in the backyard you don’t have anyone else, so we’re both diving all over the place. We don’t play the same position, so she taught me how to set, too.”

When she first started playing, Snyder’s main goal was to make the freshman team at Dakota.

Hearing that makes Ferguson laugh.

“She never made it,” Ferguson said. “She went straight to varsity. I’ve been coaching within the district for 16 years and you don’t see many natural athletes like that come through. Carli is volleyball, volleyball is Carli. I don’t know how else to put it.”

There aren’t many days when Snyder doesn’t play volleyball.

“Since I’ve been 12, I don’t think i’ve gone more than a day or two without touching a volleyball,” she said. “Even when I got my wisdom teeth out I was sitting on the couch with the ice packs, bouncing the ball in the air. Mom said, ‘put that down. You’ve got to rest.’”

It’s that dedication to the sport that has taken Snyder to a level that few high school players achieve.

“To be as good as she is and then continue to try to get better -- that’s why we’re wishing her the best next week, in Iowa (for a Junior Olympic tournament with her Michigan Elite team) and in the Dominican Republic,” Ferguson said. “She deserves it. She works so hard, day in and day out. If she isn’t at practice, she’s helping coach the youth kids and making their game better.

“She’s very humble about it. It’s nice to see that attitude. She wants to get better, play better and offer her ability, skill and knowledge of the game to other kids in the district. They love her. They ask, ‘is Carli coming today?’ She’s a great role model for them.”

Even if she doesn’t make the final cut next week, Snyder will be thankful for the experience.

“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “Playing against good players can only get you better. I want good competition. I want to get better from it. If I don’t make the team, I can know that 12 girls who were picked were truly better than me and they got me better in the process and I got them better.”

Snyder said that she’s trying to improve her overall game every time she steps on the court.

“I always have to work on everything because you always have to keep on top of your game, but mainly I’ve been working on defense because that’s probably my worst aspect of the game,” she said. “Every day you have to work hard to get better. You can always improve at something. I think I’m hitting harder than I was in the high school season. I can definitely see improvement from last year.”

One of Snyder’s biggest thrills in volleyball came earlier this year when her Michigan Elite team qualified for the Junior Olympics tournament in Iowa.

“We won the Northeast qualifier and no team from Michigan had ever won a qualifier,” Snyder said. “That was one of the happiest days of my life.”

Since she has already made her college commitment, Snyder is able to offer advice to her teammates on the Michigan Elite team.

“The girls on my club team are picking colleges so I can help them and tell them what I was going through, like talking to the colleges on the phone and things,” she said.

Having made the decision has also made life easier for Snyder.

“When people are watching us play I don’t have to worry, ‘oh, I messed up,’” she said.

Carli credits her parents, Sheila and Bill Snyder, for keeping her grounded.

“My parents keep me humble,” she said. “They’re proud of me, but they show it in their own way. They don’t say, ‘Carli, you’re the greatest.’ They want me to know that I always need to get better.

“I’m so happy they’re like that because I don’t know where my head would be if they weren’t.”

Last Updated: 5/31/2012 9:16:44 PM EST