Local Fare: 3 area volleyball players making memories with Team USA
Kyle Teune has had some exciting times on the volleyball court.
But his most exciting moment may have been what happened off the court last summer.
"Hearing my name get called to be on the national team was something that I'll never forget," Teune said this week. "It's such an honor and I'm super thankful for the opportunity to represent our country."
Teune, a Timothy Christian graduate and now a sophomore at Ohio State, was named to USA Volleyball's 21U Men's National Team last summer, and contributed to the team's Gold medal win in the PanAm Cup, which was played in Cuba.
"I had an amazing experience visiting Cuba for the first time which isn't something a lot of people get to say," said Teune, a 6-foot-6 outside hitter. "Being with such an amazing group of guys from all over the country really made the trip a whole lot better. Going into the tournament we knew we had a solid group and a good chance at winning. However, this is a lot easier said than done. The feeling after winning the final point and then storming the court is a lifelong memory and something all of us were extremely proud of."
Teune has been making memories playing for Ohio State as well. After beating Ball State Saturday in the MIVA tournament championship, the Buckeyes are headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. The team also includes senior Jack Stevens of Libertyville and freshman Jack O'Riordan of Barrington. OSU (22-9) will face King (TN, 16-15) in the April 30 play-in match.
"This year volleyball-wise, I wanted to win the MIVA championship and then go on to win the NCAA championship," Teune said. "Both are achievable which is super exciting for our team. As of right now I'm a finance major in the Fisher School of Business and am on track to graduate in May 2025. I haven't quite figured out what's in store for me after I graduate, but I'm really looking forward to whatever plan that may be. I feel like I've blinked and I'm almost already a junior. These first two years have flown by and I'm trying to enjoy every second. "
Teune, who is a Downers Grove native, is gearing up for this summer and representing the USA again.
"We've got a lot of guys coming back into the gym for 2023 and I'm really excited," he said. "This summer the national team is going to the World Championships that are being held in Manama, Bahrain. Before this, the national team is heading back to Cuba and then to Sofia, Bulgaria in preparation for worlds. Winning the PanAm Cup gives us momentum and confidence going into Bahrain with getting another gold medal in mind."
Teune says the USA team is a cohesive one and because of that it's had success.
"Our team chemistry and trust in each other has been crucial in our success this year," he said. "We've got a hardworking and competitive group of guys in the gym who push each other every day. Every single person on our team and staff has played a huge role in the team's success this year.
"For me individually, I've been focusing on my serve and pass game, trying to perfect my fundamentals. These two skills are crucial in tight sets in the college and national level that have helped grow my game."
Girls got game, too
Teune isn't the only area player wearing a USA Volleyball jersey.
Ava Falduto, a junior at IC Catholic Prep, and Abby Vander Wal, a sophomore at Timothy Christian, each were selected to the U19 developmental team. They begin training in Anaheim, Calif., April 30 with the hopes of being named to the 12-player squad that will represent the USA at the 2023 Girls U19 NORCECA Pan American Cup on May 7-15 in Ciudad de Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico.
"The opportunity to be on the U19 team is such an incredible honor and opportunity," said Falduto, a Penn State commit who led ICCP to second place in the IHSA Class 2A tournament last fall.
"I have always had goals of representing the USA, and I am still processing this honor. Being a part of this roster means so much to be and I definitely would not be able to do it without my coaches or teammates, and I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to compete with the nation's best athletes."
Falduto knows making the 12-player national squad won't be easy but she's ready for the challenge.
"The roster is full of talent and all of the girls are incredible athletes and competitors" said the 5-foot-7 libero. "They earned this opportunity and it will be a battle for the spot. In order to make the 12-player roster. It is going to take a lot of discipline, hard work, leadership, and competitiveness. The field is stacked with skill, and it will take a lot of pieces on and off the court to make the final roster."
Vander Wal echoes Falduto's thoughts.
"It's super exciting and definitely a dream come true," said the 6-3 outside hitter, who like Falduto plays for the Great Lakes club team.
"I feel super blessed to be a part of it all and I can't wait to get to Anaheim"
Vander Wal also acknowledges the competition to make the 12-player team will be tough.
"Definitely hard work and being able to play free and for me not to dwell on mistakes," she said about what it will take to make the squad.
"I've been fortunate enough to be a part of five training sessions, and I've learned that the competition is tough and it's important to stay positive."