By MICHAEL KELLY
For the second summer in a row, Fonda-Fultonville Lady Braves volleyball player Gianna Cruz will use a good chunk of her July to improve her skills for the sport.
A rising junior at F-F, the 16-year-old Cruz will compete in a pair of camps that are a part of the USA Volleyball Indoor National High Performance program. Cruz will attend a camp at SUNY Potsdam which starts this weekend for several days, then she heads to the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs for a second wave of action in mid-July.
Cruz, who played varsity softball and volleyball in 2013-14 for the Lady Braves, competed at elite camps last summer in Potsdam and Las Vegas. While her trip this summer to Colorado Springs will be a new experience, Cruz said Wednesday that she is excited to return to Potsdam after having a positive experience there a year ago.
"Everything was hardcore there," she said. "It was non-stop drills and more intense. I learned more from that camp than the one in Las Vegas."
Part of that was because the camp in Las Vegas was much larger and had a looser feel to it, while the instruction in Potsdam was more hands-on from the event's coaches.
"At Potsdam, it didn't matter how long it took for you to get something," she said. "They always made sure you got it."
Cruz had to try out to gain entry into the USA Volleyball Indoor National High Performance program, which is considered a feeder program to help develop potential talent for the national teams. A year ago, Cruz went it alone to the camps, but she said there are several other players from her local travel team, the Caroga Lake Volleyball Club, heading to the Potsdam camp this year.
Cruz is banking on her friends' presences and her experience from last year to help her out this time around. The 16-year-old Lady Brave said it was daunting, at times, a year ago to compete with older, bigger and more experienced players a year ago at the elite summer camps.
"It's always hard to adjust to new things," she said. "Last year, I was so lost, sometimes."
This year, she said, that won't be the case. Asked what lessons there were she learned from a year ago that she planned to utilize this summer, her answer came quick: This year, she is not going to let the number of girls at the camps overwhelm her, and instead plans to be first in line for every drill and event.
"As the days went on, I learned to be at the front of lines," she said.
The experiences from a summer ago helped Cruz, as she became a valuable member of the F-F volleyball team this past fall as a sophomore in her first year playing varsity. This summer is an important one for Cruz, too, as she will likely be counted on to become one of the lead players for F-F in 2014 as a junior.
Her work during the next couple weeks will go a long way toward making that a reality.
"I just want to improve on everything," she said.
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