BATON ROUGE - LSU libero Meghan Mannari recently earned a silver medal as part of the USA National A2 program at the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships held in Columbus, Ohio.
Mannari was one of 48 players nationally which included only eight liberos to participate in the prestigious program. It marked the fifth consecutive season that LSU has won a medal with a USA A2 team.
Mannari, an All-SEC Second-Team and AVCA All-South Region Honorable Mention pick, racked up 518 digs at a 4.67 per set average to rank second in the SEC. The 518 scoops also were the third-highest total for a single season in program history. She heads into her senior season 187 digs away from becoming the 12th player to reach 1,000 career digs.
Below Mannari recaps her experiences with the USA A2 program.
"The opportunity to play for the USA A2 program started back in February when I was invited to join 280 girls to try out for this elite team. Coach Flory, Coach Ojie and Coach Wilson quickly adjusted my initial fear with their encouragement by telling me they wanted me to aim for being ranked among the top 5 in the nation at my position.
I went out to the USA Olympic Training Center in Colorado and realized I was with an amazing group of athletes. Seeing Helen Boyle, Desiree Elliott and myself competing not only against girls we knew from the SEC, but against players from the top teams in the country made it all the more challenging.
When I was notified that I had been chosen, I was so excited. It was such a great feeling to know the work and preparation we had put in as a team in the off-season was not only paying off here at LSU, but also helped me succeed in another great program such as the A2.
From when I was notified I had made the team to the actual trip, the time was filled with intense Tiger training. We, as a team, worked to be better at every aspect of our game. We spent hours in the weight room and on the court. We were mentally and physically preparing for our upcoming fall season. There was also advice and suggestions from our coaching staff and my teammates that would help me when I went to the USA A2 games in Columbus.
Training was held at Ohio Dominican University before we continued play in the Columbus Convention Center. First we all met, were introduced to the coaches, and were instructed what to expect. We spent five days doing drills and moving within groups to determine what team we would be playing on. The teams were divided into four well-balanced teams, and I was chosen to be on the gold team. Among my teammates was Mary Pollmiller, the setter from Tennessee. I think the SEC bond gave us both an initial connection. Quickly these connections began to spread among the other 10 members of our team.
Our practices were intense, and our training centered on playing as a team. Something I take for granted when I am playing with my Tiger teammates, the bond between us is quick and long lasting. This group, on the gold team, met days earlier and would only play together for five days so we had a lot to learn about one another. So much of the game is reading your teammates, where they will be when the ball is hit, who will move to cover blocks and the understanding of each other on the court.
The most exciting game was a back-and-forth five set match against the leading team throughout the week. Our last point to take the win got us into the finals. We knew we were taking home Gold or Silver at that point. The last match was a tough one; though we won silver we were all so happy to have been part of this event.
I couldn't have had this opportunity without the encouragement, and preparation I received from my coaching staff at LSU. Coach Flory, Coach Ojie and Coach Wilson all gave me the confidence to know I was ready, the skills to allow me to compete and the support to know I would be the best I could be. I also felt great pride in seeing them in the stands throughout the week in Columbus cheering me on.
All and all, representing LSU with its outstanding academic and athletic reputation, was such an honor. To add the USA A2 experience has only added to the pride and love I have for LSU and the game of volleyball."
LSU will hold its annual Purple & Gold Scrimmage on Saturday, August 18 at 4:30 p.m. inside the Maravich Center. Admission to the scrimmage and all 2012 home matches at the Maravich Center are free compliments of the Advocate's "Geaux Free" program.
Leading into the scrimmage, the Tigers will instruct basic volleyball skills starting at 2 p.m. during a free kid's clinic. The clinic is open to all children eighth grade and under. To reserve your spot, contact Lauren at email@example.com by Wednesday, August 15 and include how many children will be attending the event.
LSU has strung together seven consecutive SEC Western Division titles highlighted by the overall league championship in 2009. It's the second longest streak in SEC history, only behind Florida's 14-year run on top of the SEC's Eastern Division from 1995-2008.
The Tigers have garnered a 159-55 record, secured six NCAA Tournament appearances and notched 24 All-SEC selections since 2005.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger volleyball, visit www.lsusports.net/volleyball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsuvolleyball along with @lsuvolleyball and @lsucoachfran on Twitter.