Westlake senior Holly Campbell, an elite middle blocker, knows that the first few weeks of the high school volleyball season are when memories are made. Long bus trips and hotel stays tied to tournaments form bonds that last a lifetime.
For Campbell, those days are finished, but she sees it as a small price to pay for what lies ahead.
As the Chaparrals continued their 2017 season with a 3-1 victory over McCallum on Tuesday night, Campbell was in Colorado Springs, Colo., training with USA Volleyball’s youth national team. On Monday, she learned that she had survived the final cut and will be part of the squad headed to the girls under-18 world championships in Argentina. The tournament will run from Aug. 18-28.
“I was super nervous going in,” said the 6-foot-4 Campbell, who barely missed making the 2016 youth national squad. “I honestly had no idea if I had made it or not. I walked in and he (U.S. head coach Jim Stone) just asked me how he thought I’d been playing, and then he said, ‘Well, we’re going to put you on the team.’ ”
Campbell, who committed to Stanford in June, will be one of 12 players on the No. 1-ranked under-18 girls team in the world.
“It’s really different going from high school and club to this, because everyone here is amazing,” she said. “It’s a lot harder, but I think I’ve gotten a lot better from it — just seeing how good everyone else is and knowing I have to play to their level, too.”
The U.S. squad leaves later this week for Brazil, where it will play a few warmup matches before heading to Santa Fe, Argentina. Campbell, whose only travels outside the United States have been to Mexico, said she is most excited to see the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro.
In Argentina, Campbell and her new teammates will play four group-stage matches in four days against Russia, Belarus, Brazil and Mexico, starting Aug. 19. Surprisingly, the U.S. has never won the girls under-18 world championship, which dates to 1989. Italy is the defending champion.
Before Campbell, the only Westlake player to have made the U.S. team was Sarah Shaw, who played in the 2009 under-18 world championships before moving on to USC.
“Everyone benefits from that recognition,” said Chaparrals coach Al Bennett, who’s just started his 30th and final season at Westlake after telling his team this past weekend that he will retire in a handful of months. “It’s a lot of pride for us, like (Westlake senior) Dakota Luther swimming at worlds. It’s easy to see it with those guys that are the pro athletes, but on the women’s side when you see stuff like that, there’s a lot of pride.”
In the short term, Bennett will have to replace his star middle blocker, who recorded a school single-season record 174 blocks last season to go with 280 kills and 51 aces. The coach said senior Julia Breeden and sophomores Priscilla Jones and Lexi Zurovec, who’s 6-4, are up to the challenge.
“There’s not going to be any excuses from us,” said Bennett, whose team opened the season Monday with a three-set sweep of East View. “We’re going to have somebody else; you’ve got to deal with people not in place. She’ll come back when it matters.”
The under-18 world championships final on Aug. 28 comes 11 days before Westlake’s first scheduled District 25-6A match on Sept. 8.
“I’ll be there for most of district play,” Campbell said, “so I’m excited that I’ll be able to help my team and hopefully I’ll keep improving so I can help us even more.”