Ball State's Szews competes for a World Championship roster spot
Being one of 20 athletes on the U.S. Men’s Junior National Team training roster isn’t something Matt Szews had his mind set on throughout the year.
But he’s not complaining.
The Ball State freshman has been at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York for the past five days training for a chance to represent Team USA in the men’s U21 World Championship.
Szews is only one of two players on the roster from the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association competing for a spot on the final 12-man lineup.
“It’s a very select honor,” Ball State head volleyball coach Joel Walton said. “These teams, when they go and compete, are trying to put together the best roster of the best players from the United States that they can.”
Coached by George Mason's Jay Hosack, the training roster consists of four All-Americans – Long Beach State's Josh Tuangia, TJ DeFalco and Kyle Ensing along with UCLA's Micah Ma'a. DeFalco is competing with the U.S. Men’s National Team in International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) World League.
As a freshman, Szews was an All-American Honorable Mention through the American Volleyball Coaches Association and earned other honors including MIVA Co-Freshman of the Year and All-MIVA First Team.
Szews didn’t have his heart set on this opportunity, but said he was “extremely happy” once he found out he’d get a chance to compete for a roster spot.
“When you bring a bunch of high-level athletes together, it only raises the level of play and I just love it,” Szews said. “It’s an honor, but it’s also humbling because once you’re out there you have this impression that you’re a fairly good player, but you start making mistakes and so is everyone. … Everyone makes mistakes, especially at this heightened level.”
For the past five days Szews, as well as the rest of the training roster, have had very similar training routines.
“Our schedule has pretty much been wake up, play volleyball, eat food, sleep and then do it again,” Szews said. “It’s been rigorous. For sure it’s taken a toll on everyone’s body. We’re adjusting and working through it.”
It's been a shift from his regular workout routine, but for eight players, that routine will end tonight as the final roster for the FIVB U21 World Championship will be announced by Hosack and his staff.
Regardless if Szews travels to represent the U.S. Men he said he was thankful for the opportunity.
"This is probably the most fun I've had playing volleyball," Szews said. "I've already learned a lot from different players and the coaches, just different things on and off the court."
The U.S. Men's team will travel to the Czech in the upcoming U21 World Championships in the Czech Republic running from June 23 through July 2.