COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – UNCG volleyball freshman and Angola High School graduate Gabriela McHugh became the first Spartan in program history to receive an invite to the 2020 U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryout in February, getting named as an alternate for the Women’s College National Team. McHugh was one of just 37 setters to be invited to this year’s tryouts and one of just six true freshmen to earn the distinction at her position, competing in a field that boasted the best domestic players from across college volleyball.
“My biggest take away from the trip would have to be that it doesn’t matter what level of college volleyball you play, that if you are willing to work hard there is a spot for you,” said McHugh. “I was playing with girls who had won national championships, but it didn’t matter, because we were all wearing the same shirt trying to play our best to play for our country.”
The 2020 open tryouts took place from February 21-23, where McHugh partook in three straight days of drills and scrimmages under the eyes of both the U.S. Women’s National Team Coaching Staff, and evaluators from across USA Volleyball and the NCAA.
“There were three waves of girls trying out all at different times,” said the Spartan setter. “I was at the early wave all three days, where we would meet with [U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team Head] Coach Karch Kiraly at the whiteboard and he would walk through the session. We warmed up as a whole group with some dynamic stretches that the national team uses and then we grabbed a ball and a partner and warmed up our arms till the buzzer sounded. Then we would split up into positions where setters would set middles and right rides on two of the courts and on the other courts we would set outsides with DS liberos passing on all courts. After that we had to go to our assigned courts where we would scrimmage doing specific rotations…”
With the top-200 players across amateur volleyball in attendance, McHugh commends that her experience has only further increased her love for the game, and will have her even more prepared for the coming 2020 season.
“For me personally, the speed of the game has changed,” said McHugh. “Playing at UNCG against our conference teams is a different pace then playing against the Stanfords and Minnesotas of the country, so having the game sped up in that sense I think will help me, because our league wont seem as fast. This experience just further ignited my passion for the game. Seeing all the girls so in love with the sport continued to remind me why I love it, and I hope to take that love and passion and inspire my team with it.”
With roughly five months separating her from her sophomore campaign, McHugh will enter the 2020 campaign after collecting 1,127 assists as a freshman. The Ashley, Indiana-native is one of just six Spartans to gather over 1,100 assists in a season, while her career total already ranks eighth in program history since the start of the rally scoring era. The Spartans enter the approaching year after falling in the 2019 Southern Conference Championship tournament quarterfinals, and will be competing in their seventh season under Head Coach Corey Carlin.
*Just this past Tuesday, McHugh received confirmation that she would be included among a list of alternates for this year’s Women’s College National Team – Anaheim. If any setters currently named to the squad are unable to participate, McHugh will take that respective player’s roster spot, training at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim from June 21-27th.