COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 23, 2016) – At the 2016 U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryout, Kelsie Payne knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. But she also felt like the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs was right where she needed to be.
“It’s cool to see people you play against during the season and have little rivalries with,” she said. “We come here and play together and compete. It’s a lot of fun.
“The competition is super intense; elite eight, final four teams. It’s really fun to get to see each other again.”
Payne, a 6-foot-3 opposite out of Austin, Texas, played a key role in the Kansas volleyball team’s surprise run to the semifinals of the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.
During the 2015 regular season, Payne, a sophomore, broke the Kansas volleyball program record for kills in a season and also led the Big 12 Conference in kills.
In the NCAA tournament, Payne led the ninth-seeded Jayhawks in scoring in every match, including its quarterfinal upset of top-seeded Southern California. Payne and teammate Ainise Havili, a setter who was also at the Open Tryout, were the first Jayhawks ever to be named AVCA First Team All Americans.
“It was cool to be the first team at Kansas to go that far and we broke so many records,” Payne said. “We had fun while we were doing it. It’s exciting to get back at it this year and see how far we can go.”
In 2014, Kansas lost in the first round of the tournament. What was the different in 2015?
“This year we trusted each other a lot more,” she said. “We were more friends off of the court and that helped a lot with team chemistry. Everyone had their job and did their role the best they could.”
The 2016 Open Tryout was the second for Payne, who has always envisioned a volleyball career beyond Kansas.
“My goal this year is to play for the College National Team and then (after college) to go pro,” she said. “If one day I could play in the Olympics that would be awesome.”