COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 21, 2016) – Separated by age and geography, sisters Jana and Savannah Angel came together to experience the 2016 U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryout at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
In high school, their age gap didn’t allow the two to play together. Once Savannah went to college, Jana had already graduated and was playing internationally. This week at the Open Tryout, the two reunited for the experience they both have been looking forward to, playing volleyball together.
“We’re rooming together. It’s exciting because it’s like the college experience together that we never had,” said Savannah. “I haven’t been in her wave on the courts here, but we get to experience things together.”
“She’s watched all of my waves and I’ve watched all of hers,” Jana explained. “I tried to tell her what to pack. I told her, ‘Last time I was here there was a foot of snow on the ground.’ Then we come and we could’ve brought a bikini and been fine. We’ll talk about the different girls we got to play with. I’ve gotten to play with some of the girls from her college team and she was with some NC State girls.”
With a four year age gap, the tryout offers a bit of a reunion for the two. Savannah, the youngest of the three Angel sisters, has played with the middle sister, Alexandria.
“My parents call it the ‘Angel Wall.’ My middle sister and I played together in high school and we’d be on the front together and they’d call us the ‘Angel Wall’ because we’ve got these big long lanky arms,” Savannah said. “Being able to experience that with my older sister, since we’ve never actually played on a team together, it would be mind-blowing. A dream come true.”
Savannah has one year left at High Point University and hopes to parlay her playing career like Jana, who played at NC State and made the jump to playing internationally.
As a family, athletics runs deep. Their dad, David, played basketball at Clemson and was drafted by the Cavaliers before playing in Europe. “My professional career was about four-and-a-half years and it was a wonderful experience,” he said as he and wife, Jan, watched Jana play from the sidelines. “I got to see and travel the world. You’re 25, 27-years old traveling the world and getting paid to do it. That’s what prompted Jana to look abroad.
“She came to the tryout her junior year, NC State sent her. She had a good tryout and at the end I remember Karch [Kiraly] took her aside. Karch is so approachable with the kids,” David reminisced. “He took her aside and told her, ‘You’ve got the tools, you need some work. I want you to go back and finish your college career. Go play some pro ball and I want to see you back here.’ That has been part of her mantra since that day. ‘I’m going back.’ That’s because Karch challenged her personally and she’s responded. Whether she makes it or not, she’s happy to be here. That’s what prompted her younger sister.”
The Angels are living the ultimate family experience so many siblings miss out on, and they’re doing it at an elite level this week with even bigger goals in sight. Now sitting to the side of the courts watching her sister begin practice, Jana speaks fondly of her youngest sister.
“I never got to play with my baby sister since we were so far apart in age. The last time I came to a tryout, it was with girls from my college team. Being able to come with your sister, that’s the ultimate way to play volleyball for me. She and I have always had a great connection. We have a similar energy and like to have fun in life. It’s that sister energy that not every sibling group gets to have but we have it.
“Last night we filled up the bathtub in the residence halls and got about four bags of ice and threw it in there. People came by and asked what we were doing, ‘You know sisterly bonding ice bath. What do you guys do in your spare time?’ Jana said with a laugh. “At the end of the day it’s fun to recap with her.”
Throughout the morning, while one was on the court, the other was nearby watching. “Jana and I are kind of the same person,” Savannah said. “We click and we’re independent, outgoing people. She’s been a big role model for me. Knowing that she tried out and is playing professionally, it makes me think, ‘My sister can do it, I can do it.'”
The familial support was echoed when Jana spoke of her parents. When asked to describe them she replied, “Involved. Everyone here has been like, ‘Oh we met your parents.’ And I say, ‘Of course you have.’ I’m so lucky, they are so supportive. They’ve always said you can do whatever you want, as long as you do it 100 percent. That’s all they’ve ever asked of us.”
“I’m a basketball player,” said David, “but I was tickled to death they chose volleyball. Because it’s a great team sport. Through the USAV High Performance program, the clubs they’ve gotten to participate in, that’s where they learned their volleyball. The coaching and support was there. You have to be committed to do the travel and that helped them grow and mature.”
Being at the WNT Tryout is a teaser of the larger goal still yet to come for the sisters.
“Playing internationally is the goal, it would be a fun experience. It would be really cool if both of us were overseas playing for a professional team there,” Savannah said.
Jana seconded the sentiment saying she’d love to take the court with her youngest sister after she graduates. She even added that she’d change from middle blocker to libero if it meant she could play with Savannah.
“Like Karch said on the first day, don’t worry about your tryout, make it about the girl to your right and to your left. Think about the girl on the front line, on the back line and you will have a good tryout. You will have a fun tryout,” Jana said. “For anyone who is ever thinking about coming, if you have an inkling that you might want to come, come.
“You get to play the best volleyball with the best coaches and facility. If you can, why wouldn’t you come? I would encourage anyone that has a dream of volleyball, if you can get yourself here, get here. It’s so much about the experience. I still keep in touch with people I met from my first WNT Tryout.”
For now, the volleyball community will watch Savannah finish at High Point and Jana fly back to Europe in two days to continue with her club team. The sisterly bond resumes long distance once again, until hopefully, one day they step on the court together as teammates.