Aug. 25, 1998
Clemson junior middle hitter Cindy Stern competed on the United States National B Team this past summer in various competitions held in Colorado Springs. It was the first in what she hopes is a stepping stone to a berth on the United States Olympic teams of 2000 or 2004. Regardless of her future goals, the experience should be of benefit to Stern’s immediate goal, bringing Clemson to another ACC title and NCAA Tournament bid.
“We have had a great preseason,” she said. “The freshmen are contributing a lot already. Everybody came back in great shape, ready to work hard and that’s what we’ve done.
“I think we are going to surprise some people this season,” Stern adds. “Losing Michelle Thieke was traumatic, but Melissa Kudelka and Mary Trull have stepped up and are doing a great job filling the setter position.”
Stern could feel her level of play rise over the summer. The national team competition was stiff, as she attended an initial tryout in early May with 71 other players from around the country.
“The national team was a great experience,” said Stern, who will be one of the top players in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference this year. “I saw a completely different level of volleyball this summer. The level of intensity was so much higher than anything I’ve witnessed. You had no choice but to learn something new.
“I competed against some of the top volleyball players in the country over the summer. Misty May, who was the player of the year in the NCAA, a couple of players from Stanford’s national championship team and other players from the top programs in the nation were in Colorado Springs.”
The team was cut to 17, but Stern was one of just two to be invited to train with the A-Team, the National Team that represented the United States in international competition. She practiced with the national squad for two weeks.
The daily schedule for the five weeks Stern trained included five hours of practice each weekday, two hours in the morning and three hours each afternoon. The team practiced for two hours each Saturday. During the last week of training, the U.S. team hosted Canada’s national team for nightly competition.
“It was an overwhelming experience at first. It was the greatest collection of talent I have ever been around. But, after a while you fit in and start to work as a team. Playing with that caliber of athletes forced me to compete at a higher level, and that obviously should help my game at Clemson this year.”
During preseason, Stern has particularly noticed an improvement in her defensive skills and blocking skills. “I’ve tried the new blocking technique that I learned, and it’s working as well, if not better, than my technique before,” she said. “On defense, I’m leaning forward more and getting much lower.”
Stern is already regarded among the best in college volleyball after just two years in the Clemson program. As a freshman, she moved into the starting lineup and was chosen to the ACC All-Freshman team and was a two-time ACC Rookie of the Week. She had a .258 hitting percentage for the 100 games she played.
The Cincinnati native brought her game to a new level last year, ranking eighth in the nation in blocks per game (1.58). For her efforts, she was chosen first-team All-ACC and first-team All-District. Stern broke the Clemson single season record for block assists (144) and had four triple doubles, more than any other Lady Tiger in history for a single season. She was outstanding in Clemson’s drive to its first ACC Championship, especially in Clemson’s victory over previously undefeated Maryland.
“Cindy’s experience with the national team this summer is a major plus for our program,” said Head Coach Jolene Hoover. “Anytime Clemson University can have an athlete compete for a national team, it brings added exposure and pride to a program. We are proud that Cindy represented Clemson University this past summer, and hopefully it is the start of a long career of international play for her.
“The experience brought her game up a couple of notches. She has seen what other athletes do from a competition standpoint and has seen what it takes to be the best. That experience should make our entire team better this year and for years to come. It is especially noteworthy that she has had this experience after her sophomore year.”
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