After leading the CSU Rams to the top of the Mountain West and earning All-American honors, Mekana Barnes is trying to take her volleyball career one step further.
Barnes, a former middle blocker with the Rams, is set to be one of 160 players trying out for a spot on the U.S. volleyball team this weekend in Colorado Springs.
The Highlands Ranch native said that she is looking forward to the tryout.
“I’m nervous and excited, probably a little more nervous,” Barnes said. “I’m just going to compete as best as I can.”
Barnes tried out for the national team last year, receiving an invitation to train with the squad. The six-footer declined the opportunity, due to previous plans, to train with CSU. Barnes said she’s hoping for better results this time around, but is still trying to keep everything in perspective.
“It’s just a tryout and that’s how I’m going to look at it because I don’t want to be any more nervous,” she said. “The training and hard work I’ve done while at CSU has prepared me and gives me an advantage.”
CSU middle blocker Tessa Nelson is confident that her former teammate still has a good chance to make the national team this time around.
“(Barnes) has gotten a lot stronger and an extra year of experience never hurts,” Nelson said. “This last year at CSU has prepared her well. I think she is ready.”
CSU head coach Tom Hilbert agreed, explaining that the national team has shown a lot of interest in Barnes.
“I know they have had their eye on her,” he said. “They called me and told me to ask her to tryout again.”
To prepare for this weekend, Barnes has continued to train with her former Ram teammates even though she isn’t officially part of the program anymore.
“I’ve just tried to stay in shape,” the Thunderidge High School graduate said. “It’s been different since I’m not on the team anymore, but they have been nice enough to still let me come in a train with them.”
Barnes established an impressive college resume while with the Rams, leading the team to four straight NCAA tournaments while earning All-American honors her junior year.
If the former high school basketball standout makes the U.S. team, she will join a long list of Rams who have played for national squads, including Angela Knopf, Tess Rogers, Sherri Danielson and most recently Tonya Mokelki, who played volleyball for the Canadian national team.
Hilbert explained that this opportunity is not only important to Barnes, but to all of CSU volleyball.
“Recruits want to know if we train enough for them to have a chance at the national team,” he said. “This is just one more case where we can say, ‘Yes.'”
Nelson said that all the work and progress Barnes has made while wearing the green and gold has prepared her for big things.
“Mekana is a dynamic player with so much potential and ability,” she said. “I have a really good feeling about this tryout. She definitely deserves it.”
Sports reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.