ISU middle blocker Tenisha Matlock was one of just 48 college volleyball players to make the USA Volleyball A2 team this year.
For a player who did not play much high-level club ball before coming to Iowa State, the selection came as a surprise to Matlock, who said she did not go into the tryouts expecting to make the cut.
“I kind of went into it just thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not going to make it, I’m just going to try out,’” Matlock said. “It was just nice to work with people who were actually there.”
A record 207 athletes made the trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Not only was Matlock the only Cyclone to make the team, she was also the only player from the Big 12.
The A2 program is for student-athletes who were not selected to the U.S. National Team but still have eligibility left for the 2012 season and provides some of the best coaching the players will ever receive.
ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said previous Cyclones who have gone through the program have came back new and improved, and she expects the same for Matlock.
"It’s going to be a great experience for her,” Johnson-Lynch said. "I know when our players have gone there in the past — Kaylee Manns and Ashley Mass made it — they always come back playing at a whole other level, a higher level.”
Matlock has switched positions a lot for the Cyclones but appears to have found her niche at the middle blocker slot. Matlock's athleticism is one thing that has allowed her to do so and senior blocker Jamie Straube said it also lets her do things a little out of the ordinary.
“She can do things that are kind of unorthodox," Straube said. "They’re not really technically what you would normally teach, but just because she’s so quick and can jump so well, she just makes it work."
One of the things Matlock worked on while at the tryouts was being more conventional with her blocking. When she blocks at Iowa State, she said her knees are bent and loaded, whereas at the A2 program, they were looking for her to keep them loose.
“I learned a lot from the coaches, especially just blocking-wise, just because it’s different when I block,” Matlock said.
Johnson-Lynch said the A2 team will help Matlock get caught up since she did not play as much on the club scene as some of her ISU teammates.
“Tenisha is still trying to catch up a little bit, and every chance she gets to train a little bit more, have some good coaching, play with some good players, I think that’s going to be tremendous for her career,” Johnson-Lynch said.
On the defensive end, Johnson-Lynch compared her to former Cyclone Erin Boeve, whose name can be found on several of Iowa State’s all-time leaderboards for blocking.
On the other end, Matlock is still working on improving offensively and Johnson-Lynch hopes to see that at some point as well.
Matlock began playing middle blocker for Iowa State last August as a sophomore. Now that she has a full season under her belt, she has started to become more comfortable at the position that appears to be her perfect spot.
Matlock said the A2 selection was a bit of a confidence booster but a late arrival did not allow her to take it all in.
“We were there for two days, so I didn’t really get to take the whole thing in because we were late the first day, so we didn’t get to try out, and then we learned the second day about a little bit of stuff,” Matlock said.
Johnson-Lynch believes with the added coaching of the A2 team, Matlock can be an All-Big 12 player for them but said it is going to come down to having confidence, making time and getting her reps in.
“It’s going to take another step up from her and particularly offensively," Johnson-Lynch said. "She’s going to have to put up bigger numbers to be in consideration for that, but she certainly has that potential."