From Injury to Inspiration: One Athlete's Dream of Playing for Team USA

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Growing up in Colorado Springs in the hometown of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Rachael Broerman dreamed of the opportunity to play on the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team.

Broerman, a libero who finished up her junior season at the University of Dayton (Ohio) last fall, is back in Colorado Springs participating in the U.S. Women's National Team Open Tryout. The tryout involves 174 athletes -- the most ever at the annual open tryout -- being evaluated by U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) and his coaching staff in sessions Feb. 19 through Feb. 21.

The Open Tryout has 46 middle blockers, 41 outside hitters, 38 liberos, 30 setters and 19 opposites representing 81 different colleges. As part of the tryout, athletes are competing for spots on the U.S. Women's Volleyball National Team program and the U.S. Women's Senior A2 teams.

The U.S. Women's National Team program is open to athletes who have concluded their college eligibility and who wish to train full-time. This program could begin as early as February 2010, or when an athlete's scholastic or professional club season has concluded. Athletes who will have remaining collegiate eligibility may still participate in the program with participation beginning May 2010 or when their scholastic calendar ends.

Athletes in college with collegiate eligibility remaining for the 2010 season and not selected to the USA Women's National Team may be invited to participate in the USA Senior A2 Team. This program is tentatively scheduled to take place in Phoenix from May 24 through June 2. A projected 24 athletes will be invited to participate in the program, which will include training and competition in the 2010 USA Adult Open Championships in the Open Division from May 29-June 1. USA Volleyball considers the event as the National Championship for the sport of volleyball in the United States.

Despite suffering a microfacture of her left knee last fall, Broerman helped the Dayton Flyers to a 29-3 record in 2009 and a spot in the second round of the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship tournament. As one of the team's two captains, she played in 22 matches compiling 46 digs and six aces.

With 37 other liberos participating in the tryout, Broerman may seem to be a long shot to reach her childhood dream of playing on the U.S. Women's National Team. However, considering her past, it could be considered a long shot for Broerman to just be competing in college.

As an eighth grade libero playing for Colorado Juniors, Broerman injured her ACL during an early 2003 season club tournament in Amarillo, Texas.

"Because our team was doing so well, my coach took me out for a while to let another (player) try the libero position," Broerman described in a Summer 2003 Volleyball USA magazine article, "My coach put me in to hit front row, and I was ecstatic. I am not very tall (was 5-3 at the time), so I don't get to hit very often. I was in heaven. I was playing well, and then it happened. I went up to hit the ball. Everyone told me I was high in the air. When I came down, I couldn't get up."

Broerman went through a painful recovery, and most of that was borne out of knowing she was not on the court helping her teammates. By the regional tournament in 2003, she was back on the court serving and receiving serve. Broerman walked onto the court in Atlanta as her team's libero at the USA Volleyball Girls' Junior National Championships, leading it to an 11th-place finish just a few months removed from ACL surgery.

While playing for St. Mary's High School in Colorado Springs, Broerman again was sidelined with an ACL injury during her junior season. Despite missing most of her junior year, she ended her prep career ranked third in Colorado history in service aces and sixth in career assists.

For most individuals, the dream to compete at the highest level in college and possibly the U.S. Women's National Team would have turned into nightmares after two ACL surgeries and her injuries last season in her college junior season. However, Broerman has learned from both experiences.

"I have been pretty driven my whole life, but the injuries have put some kinks into my volleyball career," Broerman said in explaining her resilience to the injury bug. "It has just meant I have had to work harder and put in a lot of extra hours to get to where I am now. It has been worth it because I love this game. I would not change anything for what I have done to get back."

Broerman views the U.S. Women's National Team Open Tryout a very positive experience for her.

"I am getting more reps at my position and getting good coaching at the same time," Broerman said. "Plus, we are at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the atmosphere is great. Everyone is getting after it on the first day. I feed off that kind of environment."

With one more season of college eligibility, Broerman has set some personal goals to accomplish before leaving Dayton.

"For the upcoming season, personally, I want to be the starting libero," Broerman said. "As a team, we want to win the Atlantic 10 Conference and make it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. We are hosting the NCAA regionals next season and that would be special to reach that round and play at home." Broerman would like to extend her volleyball career after college, whether playing or some other role.

"After college, I would love to be a volleyball coach and give back to the sport if the opportunity comes along," Broerman said.

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