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Carlton to take court for USA Volleyball in Pan American Cup

Holly Carlton sets the ball during a 2017 spring scrimmage at North Carolina. Carlton, a setter and opposite hitter for the Tar Heels, was selected to play opposite hitter for the United States.—Courtesy Photo
Holly Carlton admits she was not overly optimistic prior to reading an email from USA Volleyball one late night in March. More than three weeks had passed since the Potomac Falls High School alum participated in a tryout March 3-5 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

"I opened it up and was just really surprised," Carlton explained of learning she was one of 12 players selected to represent the United States in the 2017 Under-20 Women’s Pan American Cup.

"It was too late [at night] to tell anyone," Carlton said during a phone interview. "I laid awake for the next two hours just letting it sink in."

Carlton, a freshman at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, was selected as an opposite (right-side) hitter for the international tournament, set for May 8-13 in Costa Rica.

"This means a lot to me, being able to represent my country is a huge deal," Carlton acknowledged. "It's something that I've dreamed about for a long time. To have it become realistic is insane."

Carlton's selection on the junior national team adds to a lofty list of volleyball accomplishments. The 18-year-old from Sterling earned 2015 Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year honors. As a senior, Carlton led Potomac Falls to a regional championship and a first-ever trip to the state final. She also won a national championship playing with Metro Volleyball Club.

Carlton, a 6-foot, 7-inch left-handed hitter, is now a member of the nationally-ranked North Carolina volleyball team. With seniors entrenched in starting roles at both of her playing positions in 2016, Carlton redshirted as a freshman and has four years of college eligibility remaining.

"I was really grateful that UNC gave me the opportunity to redshirt," Carlton said. "I was able to stay back on weekends and train, and get a year of school under my belt before I start competing this fall."

Joe Sagula, head volleyball coach at North Carolina for the last 27 years, is thrilled to see Carlton earn selection on the national team.

"This is a testament to her commitment throughout the year to her work ethic and training that has allowed her to compete at this level," Sagula said in a release. “Holly will gain valuable experiences both on and off the court that will help her continue to mature as a player and leader. I am very proud of Holly and the opportunities she has ahead of her to represent UNC and USA Volleyball."

Carlton and her national teammates have one goal for the 2017 U20 Women’s Pan American Cup: earn the United States a spot in the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Women’s U20 World Championship, scheduled for July 14-23 in Mexico.

"I want to do whatever I can to help us achieve that goal," Carlton said before talking about the upcoming experience.

"It will be really cool, as a person and a player, to be able to travel internationally and meet a bunch of new people. I think it will be a great experience."

While needing to wait until the next morning before sharing the "great news" of her inclusion on the national team, Carlton noted it was a good time to reflect about all the people she is "grateful for", referencing family, coaches and teammates.

"They have all helped me along this very special journey."

That journey continues May 9 when the United States faces Argentina in Group A pool play. The medal-round matches for the nine-team tournament are May 13.

Holly Carlton

-Sport: Volleyball

-Positions: Setter/opposite hitter

-Height: 6'7"

-Age: 18, turns 19 in May

-College: North Carolina

-High school: Potomac Falls

-Club: Metro VBC

-Up next: Playing for USA Volleyball in 2017 U20 Women’s Pan American Cup

-Photos from national team tryouts in March, courtesy USA Volleyball/Bill Kauffman


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