by, Jerry Hill, Baylor Bear Insider
Involved with the USA Junior Volleyball program since eighth grade, Andie Malloy got rid of the nerves and jitters of the big stage a long time ago.
But they crept back in last month when the Baylor junior played for the U.S. Collegiate National Team on a tour of China.
"Honestly, the first opportunity I got to get out there, I was really nervous for some reason," she said. "But then, after like a point or something, I was like, `No, I've done this my entire life. I scrimmage in practice and I've gotten so many reps. It's just volleyball. I don't need to worry.'''
Of course, there were reasons for those nerves.
Other than scrimmaging and practicing with the Baylor team over the last year, that opening match in Sanming, China, was the first time Malloy had suited up and played in an actual match since her sting with the USA U-20 team at last summer's World Championships in the Czech Republic.
After transferring from Iowa State to Baylor following her freshman season, Malloy didn't get her unconditional release and was ineligible in both the fall and spring semesters, even paying her own way to Baylor last year.
"It's not that you become reliant, but it becomes a big part of your life, just the sport of volleyball," Malloy said. "Whenever that's taken out, it puts things more into perspective that it's not all about volleyball. Yes, we're here for volleyball, but in the bigger scheme of things it's just growing in your relationship with God. The plans that you have for yourself might not always line up with the plans He has for you."
After missing the 2013 season, Malloy wasn't sure about her chances of making the U.S. Collegiate National team. But she paid her way to a tryout in Colorado Springs, Colo., in January and got word in an email acceptance.
"Oh my gosh, I was shock," she said, "Even at the tryout, I just loved being able to play against all those girls. I left the tryout thinking, `OK, I gave it my all. And if I'm meant to be on a team, then I will be.' And I didn't really know what to think. When I got that email and it said something like, `Congratulations, you made the China team,' I called my dad and was like, `Oh my gosh, I can't believe it. I can't believe this is really happening.'''
On previous tours with USA Volleyball, Malloy was used to seeing a lot of the same faces. But this was a whole new group.
Coached by Mark Rosen of Michigan and Lauren Steinbrecher of James Madison, the team included setters Morgan Bergren from Kentucky and Lexi Dannemiller from Michigan, middle blockers Alaysia Brown of San Diego, Briana Holman of LSU and Minnesota's Hanna Tapp, outside hitters Carly Kan of Missouri, Emily Sklar of Duke and Nicole Walch of Florida State, opposites Shelby Dalton of Utah and Ebony Nwanebu of USC and libero Kori Moster of Michigan State.
"I was a little nervous about that at first, but then I came to really love my team. It was a great group of girls," Malloy said. "Not knowing people at all, it could have gone two different ways. It could have gone really good or really bad, but it was a great group of girls."
Despite just two days of training in Los Angeles, where they scrimmaged a Pac-12 all-stars team that made the trip to China, the USA women knocked off the Chinese Junior National team three times and went 5-2 overall in stops at Samsing and Beijing.
"We beat that China team three times and then lost to them in in the championship, and they ended up getting this big trophy," Malloy said. "It's just hard to beat a team four times in a row, because you learn each other's tendencies. But it was a lot of fun. We still got a nice trophy."
A combo setter and right-side hitter growing up, Malloy moved to outside hitter as a freshman at Iowa State in 2012, where she earned Big 12 All-Freshman honors and posted double-digit kills in the Cyclones' two NCAA Tournament victories.
And that was the spot she played in her stint with the U.S. Collegiate National team this summer.
"There were four really good outside hitters, so it was a battle," she said. "I guess I didn't get to play as much as I would have liked. But not being able to play for an entire year, I looked at this experience as a chance to learn all I can and pick the brains of all the players I'm with. And then, whenever I get a chance in the game, just give it my all."
Throughout the 11-day stay in China, Malloy and the rest of the team also got plenty of chances to sightsee, making it to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square on their off days.
"The day we went to the Great Wall, it was pouring down rain, and I had a purse that didn't even have a zipper on it," Malloy said. "I had my Ipad in there to take some pictures and I was like, `Oh no, I don't know what to do.' So, I bought this cheap $2 poncho and covered it as best I could. I ended up going with a group of girls that walked really far. And we thought, `Oh, we reached the top of it.' But there's not really a top, it just keeps going around. I did buy a shirt that I think said, `I Climbed the Great Wall.' That was really cool."
One of the highlights for Malloy was trips to the Silk Market in Beijing, where she loaded up on Nike shoes. By the third trip, she had this bartering thing down.
"By the last day, I had my mind set on certain prices. And when I walked in, I was like, `No, I'm paying that much or I'm walking out,''' she said. "I'd start to walk out, and they would stop me and say, `Fine! Fine! Nice, but tough girl.' I had my price set and I knew what I wanted to pay."
After settling back in at Baylor, Malloy says she is "more than ready" to play collegiate volleyball for the first time in two years.
"We have such a great group of girls on this team, best friends on and off the court," she said. "If there's a weekend or some free time, we're going to be hanging out together. It's really rare when you find a group of girls that are working so hard together and selfless in putting the team first. I just feel honored to be a part of a group like that, and I can't wait to get out there and actually play this year."
With Malloy on the sidelines, along with a couple of injured players in Katie Staiger and Thea Munch-Soegaard, the Bears finished a disappointing 12-20 overall last season and 4-12 in the Big 12. But there is a sense of optimism going into a 2014 season that begins with the Hampton Inn Waco North Baylor Invitational on Aug. 29-30 at the Ferrell Center.
"I feel like this team has so much potential. This is one talented group," Malloy said. "If we can all stay healthy, and we can all just keep holding each other accountable and really working and pushing to get better every time we're in the gym, this is going to be a great season."