ANAHEIM, California (April 27, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team connected with the next generation of superstars Friday morning as the USA Volleyball Girls 18s Junior National Championships (GJNC18) started at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The U.S. Women train in Anaheim, the official host city for both the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams for the last decade. But today, they shifted practice about two miles – from the American Sports Centers to the Anaheim Convention Center – so more players participating in the GJNC18 could watch them train and later in a 30-minute autograph session.

“It was really cool. It was a great environment,” said U.S. Women’s National Team setter Carli Lloyd, who earned a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games and was named the 2017 USA Volleyball Female Indoor Athlete of the Year. “We actually had the stands pretty full, so it is nice to play in front of girls who are hopefully aspiring to go to the next level, play at a higher level. We had a lot of fun today.”

The training session brought back many memories from their own club days. And along the way, seeing some coaches from their own club and college days.

“We have seen a lot of friendly faces here because a lot of us came up through playing club volleyball,” Lloyd said. “Coaches who we played with or against in club or college are here (either recruiting or coaching).”

Yet, the training session was ultimately made to connect the U.S. Women’s National Team with the current club players about to head off to college themselves.

Grace Gilles, Eden Mahdavi, Meredith LaVine and Addison Althoff, all players with Minnesota One competing the 18 Patriot Division, shared they loved getting to watch the National Team players while on a break from their own matches at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Being they are from Minnesota, they have had the opportunity to watch many of the current National Team players compete in college. Below are some of the rapid fire, collective responses they shared during the National Team training session.

“It looks like they are very competitive.”

“But at the same time, it is so relaxing to watch.”

“They are a very clean, controlled team. They make it look easy.”

“I am just fan-girling.”

“I just remember watching the college game, especially between Minnesota and Wisconsin. I have been watching Sarah Wilhite the past four years. She has gotten so much better. Now seeing her on the National Team is so cool.”

First Alliance 18 Black, which is competing in the 18 American Division, went through the autograph line after the training session and thought the entire experience will have a positive influence on their own futures. Below are some of the comments that came from the team.

“It was so cool. It has always been a dream to be on the U.S. National Team.”

“It is very motivational. It is just one of those things watching them play, it just makes you excited to play. It makes you love the sport even more.”

“What is nice is they get to see some of their hometown heroes (Kelly Murphy and Lauren Carlini). A couple of (the National Team) girls played in the area where First Alliance is at, and it is nice to see somebody, miles from where they grew up, now playing on an international arena.”