NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Yale setter Franny Arnautou last month became the first Bulldog and was the only Ivy Leaguer to earn a spot on the 17-player U.S. Women's Junior National Training Team. After playing against and training with some of the nation's top young volleyball players, Franny shared her rare experience during an interview this week.
You've been pretty busy since the end of the school year. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Franny: After finishing a five-week Yale study abroad program in Paris, I spent roughly 36 hours at home, and then hopped on an early morning flight to the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs. I was excited to be back with girls I knew from playing club, coaches and players I knew from past USA Volleyball tryouts and programs, and new faces from impressive volleyball programs all over the country. Being the only Ivy-League player there, it was great for me to keep those friendships alive, as well as represent such a great, well-rounded corner of Division I NCAA Volleyball.
What was a typical day like at the Olympic Training Center?
Franny: For a week straight, we had two 3-hour-practices daily, with few exceptions (we got a half day on the 4th of July to attend a local fair with fireworks!). Cold tubs and other recovery machines were definitely necessary, as all of us were quickly very sore! The healthy food offered at OTC was nourishing and filling, as was the soft serve ice cream…vital. At night, we would hang out, listen to music, FaceTime family members and friends, and laugh about stories from our respective schools and teams.
How is the U.S. Women's Junior Training Team setup?
Franny: The tryout held 17 players, with only 12 spots available to travel to Mexico for the World Championships. Some positions were safe from cuts, but the setter position offered only 2 spots, with 4 competing for plane seats. Before cuts, I felt confident knowing I had put forth a great tryout, competed very well, and given everything I had to each session. Unfortunately, I wasn't offered a spot to travel, though. I was bummed and surprised. Not because the talent selected over me wasn't worthy, but because I knew what I could and did offer to the team during my time training there.
What did you gain from such a unique experience?
Franny: I gleaned a lot of lessons from the experience. A reality of extremely competitive programs like this one is that decisions like these are out of your control, and often decided by very slim margins. Representing the USA in an international tournament is not something anyone is entitled to, and it is an extreme honor--that spot should be very difficult to secure no matter who you are. All you can control is your effort and performance, and hold your head high regardless of the outcome. I am excited to see the Junior National Team's success and cheer them on as they travel to Mexico, and am glad I was apart of the team's growth. I also look forward to next year's tryout and am quite motivated to continue on in the USA Pipeline.
You were able to play against some of the nation's best. How did your experience prepare you for the up-coming Yale season?
Franny: The meat of the benefit from this training period was gained whether I made the squad or not. Getting to play defense against multiple top-10 high school recruits, and set up similarly touted college players for an extended period of time is never something about which I will lament or complain! The energy in our gym was palpable and I remain so grateful for the opportunity to have contributed and been apart of it. I'm looking forward to getting bak in the gym with the Bulldogs and chasing an Ivy League Championship. Go USA and go Yale!