MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (June 30, 2017) – The U.S. Collegiate National Team-Minneapolis program concluded Friday at the Minneapolis Convention Center with CNT Blue taking the championship by winning two matches on the final day after losing both its pool play matches.

After defeating CNT White 22-25, 25-15, 23-25, 15-13, 15-13 (fourth and fifth sets shortened due to time constraints), CNT Blue used the momentum in the championship match to edge previously unbeaten CNT Red 20-25, 26-24, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13 behind the stellar play of outside hitter Leah Hardeman (Coastal Carolina, Clarkston, Georgia) and setter Taylor Tashima (Northwestern University, Wilmette, Illinois). Hardeman notched a tournament-best 29 points with 25 kills on 46 attacks, two aces and two blocks. Tashima set CNT Blue to a 47 kill percent and .340 hitting efficiency (67-18-144) while adding one kill.

“I hate losing,” Tashima said after CNT Blue won the championship match despite losing both pool play matches. “We all hate to losing, and I think going down in three sets in both pool play matches and not taking a set – we had to come back, work our game plan and really put something together to beat these teams.”

Tashima said that the U.S. Collegiate National Team program is so valuable for her future within the pipeline, as well as her senior season at Northwestern.

“This training is so valuable, to be able to compete at such a fast-paced level with such great athletes is a great honor,” Tashima said. “I am so happy to be invited to come here. The training here in Minnesota was tough – we were doing double days and that gets you ready for college preseason and competition. The last time I actually competed in a game was this spring. It is good to get going again. I’m excited to get back to Northwestern.”

Hardeman said her training in Minnesota with the U.S Collegiate National Team has helped her with her aggressiveness on the court, something she will take back to Coastal Carolina for her senior season.

“I definitely learned a lot from the USA training,” Hardeman said. “I definitely decided to get that deep shot in there, and I will take that back with to Coastal Carolina. Having tough aggressiveness – I was a rock and I am going to take that back to Coastal Carolina as well.”

Hardeman entered the CNT program from a non-Top 5 conference, but that did not stop her from taking in the experience and playing as she did when evaluated for the program this past spring at the U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryout.

“I am super excited to be here,” Hardeman said. “I am excited to play alongside with all these athletes. It is the first time I have been here, and obviously my last time as I will be a senior next year. I am excited to come and so excited to be picked to play along with all these other great players. I would definitely recommend other players to come if invited.”

Outside hitter Veronica Jones-Perry (BYU, West Jordan, Utah) added 21 points in the CNT Blue victory with 19 kills on 48 swings, one block and one aces. Middle Kirstie Hillyer (Colorado State University, Bayfield, Colorado) added nine kills on 14 attacks, a match-best four blocks and an ace for 14 points. Libero Brandi Donnelly (University of Illinois, Williamsville, Illinois) was credited with a 48 positive reception percent on 25 reception chances, while libero Brittany Thomas (Lipscomb University, Overland Park, Kansas) handed 18 receptions with a 61 positive percent.

For CNT Red, opposite Holly Toliver (Michigan State University, Berrien Springs, Michigan) scored a team-best 19 points with 15 kills on 35 attacks, two aces and two blocks. Outside hitter Taryn Kloth (Creighton University, Sioux Falls, South Dakota) contributed 18 points with 16 kills on 35 swings and two aces in the loss. Middle Darrielle King (University of Florida, DeSoto, Texas) and opposite Casey Schoenlein (Washington State University, Bellevue, Washington) secured 13 points in the championship match.

Libero Emily Butters (Missouri State University, Richmond, Texas) handled 21 receptions for CNT Red with a 57 positive reception percent. Kloth had 29 receptions with a 55 positive percent and Toliver added 25 receptions with a 40 positive percent. Ashley Evans (Purdue University, Liberty Township, Ohio), who started four of the five sets for CNT Red, helped her squad to a 40 kill percent for the match.

In the play-in match, Jones-Perry notched a team-best 19 points with 18 kills and a block. Hardeman pocketed 16 points with 14 kills and two blocks. Opposite Amanda Green (University of Louisviille, Skokie, Illinois) tacked on 13 points with 10 kills on 27 attacks, two blocks and an ace. Hillyer chipped in six kills on nine swings and four blocks for 10 points in the CNT Blue play-in victory. Tashima set the squad to a 42 kill percent. Donnelly handled 25 receptions with a 48 positive percent while Thomas had an 82 positive reception percent on 11 reception chances.

CNT White, which was 1-1 in pool play, was led by opposite Sherridan Atkinson (Purdue University, Long Beach, California with 21 kills on 38 swings and a block in the play-in loss. Outside hitter Julia Scoles (University of North Carolina, Mooresville, North Carolina) added 15 points with 14 kills on 34 attacks and an ace. She handled 58 of the team’s 87 receptions with a 53 positive percent. Libero Tita Akiu (Texas Tech, Honolulu, Hawaii) was credited with a 50 positive reception percent on 12 chances. Setter Monique Harris (Iowa State University, Clinton, Iowa) set CNT White to a 39 kill percent.

The CNT-Minneapolis squad, which is part of USA Volleyball’s High Performance pipeline and is considered a second tryout for the U.S. Women’s National Team, trained at the University of Minnesota from June 22-26 prior to the competition matches at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

2017 U.S. Collegiate National Team – Minneapolis

Red Team
# – Name (Position, School, Height, College Eligibility Remaining, Hometown, Junior Club Team)
14 – Rachel Anderson (M, Western Kentucky University, 6-1, 2, Sturgis, Michigan, Dead Frog Far Out)
5 – Emily Butters (L, Missouri State University, 5-8, 2, Richmond, Texas, Southwest Juniors)
29 – Olivia Dailey (S, University of Kentucky, 5-10, 2, Trussville, Alabama, Southern Performance)
28 – Ashley Evans (S, Purdue University, 6-1, 1, Liberty Township, Ohio, Cincy Classics)
21 – Lauren Fuller (OH, University of San Diego, 6-3, 2, Clarendon Hills, Illinois, Sports Performance)
18 – McKenna Granato (OH, University of Hawaii, 6-0, 2, Kailua, Hawaii, Imi ‘Ike)
7 – Darrielle King (M, University of Florida, 6-3, 3, DeSoto, Texas, Texas Advantage Volleyball)
20 – Taryn Kloth (OH, Creighton University, 6-4, 2, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Kairos)
4 – Brooke Peters (L, Purdue University, 5-9, 2, Avon, Indiana, Circle City)
25 – Casey Schoenlein (OPP, Washington State University, 6-5, 1, Bellevue, Washington, Seattle Juniors)
24 – Holly Toliver (OPP, Michigan State University, 6-2, 1, Berrien Springs, Michigan, Dead Frog Far Out)
11 – Amber Witherspoon (M, Syracuse University, 6-4, 2, Chicago, Illinois, No junior club)

Head Coach: Todd Dagenais (University of Central Florida head coach)
Assistant Coach: Marie Zidek (University of San Diego assistant coach)

CNT White Team
# – Name (Position, School, Height, College Eligibility Remaining, Hometown, Junior Club Team)
2 – Tita Akiu (L, Texas Tech University, 5-2, 2, Honolulu, Hawaii, Team Piko VBC)
34 – Sherridan Atkinson (OPP, Purdue University, 6-5, 2, Long Beach, California, SoCal Juniors)
8 – Jasmine Bennett (M, University of Louisville, 6-2, 2, Paducah, Kentucky, Western Kentucky VBC)
10 – Faith Dooley (M, University of North Dakota, 6-3, 1, Wheatland, North Dakota, Summit Junior Volleyball)
35 – Angel Gaskin (OPP, University of Maryland, 6-1, 2, Tampa, Florida, Tampa United)
33 – Sydney Griffin (S, University of North Dakota, 5-11, 1, Marshall, Minnesota, Kairos Elite)
12 – Deja Harris (M, San Diego State University, 6-2, 1, Las Vegas, Nevada, Vegas Encore)
32 – Monique Harris (S, Iowa State University, 5-9, 1, Clinton, Iowa, Iowa Select)
23 – Brittany McLean (OH, University of Minnesota, 6-1, 3, Rosemount, Minnesota, Northern Lights)
17 – Julia Scoles (OH, University of North Carolina, 6-1, 3, Mooresville, North Carolina, Carolina Juniors)
16 – Stephanie Williams (OH, University of Pittsburgh, 6-0, 3, Eastlake, Ohio, Cleveland Volleyball Academy)

Head Coach: Lindsey Devine (East Tennessee State University head coach)
Assistant Coach: Jay Van Vark (Grand Canyon University assistant coach)

CNT Blue Team
# – Name (Position, School, Height, College Eligibility Remaining, Hometown, Junior Club Team)
3 – Brandi Donnelly (L, University of Illinois, 5-8, 1, Williamsville, Illinois, Illini Elite)
26 – Amanda Green (OPP, University of Louisville, 6-1, 3, Skokie, Illinois, Sports Performance)
19 – Leah Hardeman (OH, Coastal Carolina University, 5-10, 1, Clarkston, Georgia, Atlanta Boom)
6 – Kirstie Hillyer (M, Colorado State University, 6-6, 3, Bayfield, Colorado, Four Corners VBC)
15 – Veronica Jones-Perry (OH, BYU, 6-0, 2, West Jordan, Utah, Club V)
31 – Kristyn Nicholson (S, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 6-0, 1, Lewisville, Texas, Texas Advantage VBC)
9 – Kelsey O’Neill (M, University of Iowa, 6-1, 1, Skokie, Illinois, Wildcat Juniors)
22 – Alyssa Schultejans (OH, Kansas State University, 6-3, 2, Silver Lake, Kansas, Topeka Elite)
30 – Taylor Tashima (S, Northwestern University, 6-0, 1, Wilmette, Illinois, Wildcat Juniors)
1 – Brittany Thomas (L, Lipscomb University, 5-4, 1, Overland Park, Kansas, KC Power)
13 – Lynsey Wright (M, Missouri State University, 6-0, 1, Glen Carbon, Illinois, Rockwood Thunder)

Head Coach: Dennis Janzen (Trinity Western University assistant coach)
Assistant Coach: Lindsey Walton (University of Kentucky assistant coach)

Program Managers and Administrators: Rod Wilde (Madison Elite), Nicki Holmes (NC State University assistant coach), Jeff Wanderer (West Hills College head coach)
Technical Assistants: Rachel Ferguson (Grand Canyon University director of operations) and Jon Wong (Bradley University assistant coach)