Former Weatherford Lady Roo and current Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi volleyball student-athlete Carissa Barnes has represented her teams well everywhere she goes, helping the blue and white reach the regional semifinal round of Class 6A playoffs in her final year of high school, before being named the Southland Conference’s Freshman of the Year last fall with the Islanders after a campaign which featured double-digit dig totals in 30 matches to go along with 48 service aces.
It is a playing career that has captured the attention of the U.S. Women’s National Team, which recently extended an invitation to Barnes for the organization’s upcoming tryouts Friday through Sunday at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Set to be led by U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member Karch Kiraly, the tryouts stand as a surreal opportunity Barnes said she long dreamt about, but was initially unsure if she was cut out for.
“Ever since my volleyball career started when I was 12 years old and playing for a club named Club Texas, I was always intrigued by the idea of playing at a more competitive level,” Barnes said.
“I would always tell my parents and coach about my dream of being an Olympic athlete one day. As I transitioned in my level of play from club to college ball, I began to believe that I wasn’t good enough to compete with the most experienced players. Because of my lack of confidence, I let go of my dream of playing volleyball in the Olympics.
“But [after] talking to Steve Greene, my head coach at TAMUCC, he reassured me of my talent and dedication to the sport. Still not sure of my decision, I had to really think about if this was an avenue I wanted to approach which could possibly change my future.
“When I came to the realization that I wanted to attend the tryouts, I realized that this would be a fun and amazing experience, because a lot of individuals never get this opportunity.”
Barnes credited a strong support system of teammates, coaches, family and friends for helping foster that mentality toward trying out for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“The support and dedication from my coaches, teammates and family have definitely shaped the way I play the game and gave me the heart to strive to my greatest potential,” Barnes said.
“I couldn’t do this without them. All I’m focused on now, no matter the outcome, is playing my heart out and representing the people I would do anything for.”
Weatherford High School Head Volleyball Coach Nicholas Gay said Barnes is more than deserving of her opportunity at hand, citing the former Lady Roo’s work ethic, versatility and her unwavering desire to constantly improve.
“It’s a great honor for Carissa to get that recognition,” Gay said.
“USA volleyball has a pipeline of kids they look at for potential, whether they’ll be playing on their junior national team or later on their Olympic teams, so just to be a standout in her first year at college is really awesome.
“Carissa is one of the first liberos I’ve had in that particular pipeline, and she’s just a gamer. Everyone saw what she did for the Weatherford Lady Roos. She has the mindset to be an Olympian if she wants to be with how hard she works and how much she loves the game.”
Barnes will join 213 other athletes and 46 other liberos from nearly 100 colleges set to compete in the tryouts, starting at 3 p.m. Friday.