Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Payne, Wait Net Close Look at Squad ; Haskin: Jayhawks Seeking Elite Status

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Payne, Wait Net Close Look at Squad ; Haskin: Jayhawks Seeking Elite Status

Article excerpt

LAWRENCE -- We watch the Olympic volleyball competition and make casual observations.

Do they need to raise the net? Don't sand and sweat grate on the skin? Can you believe the game was once played without rally scoring?

Like anyone in the sport, Kansas volleyball players watch the Olympics. They don't ask those questions, however.

They examine fundamentals, deduce strategy and, of course, wonder what it would be like to represent the United States on a gargantuan stage erected every four years.

Two Jayhawks are doing so after participating with Team USA this summer.

Kelsie Payne was named to the Pan American Cup squad, which competed in the Dominican Republic in July. Cassie Wait also tried out for that team. One court over at the Anaheim training center, the women's team representing the U.S. in the Rio Games was practicing.

"It made it real," Payne said. "You see them on TV, or watch them online and it's one thing. But when you see them in the same gym, they're real people. They were where I am five or six years ago."

Indeed, Payne is a budding star on the national scene. The 6- foot-3 hitter earned All-America honors as a sophomore last season. Wait, an All-America libero, returns for her senior season.

"It's just baby steps until you get to that elite level," Wait said, mentioning the tryout out for the Pan American Cup team, "and it's not a stretch for girls in this gym (at KU) to get to that level."

Especially after the Jayhawks finished 30-3 last season and reached the Final Four for the first time. Five starters return off that squad, which is predicted to battle Texas again for Big 12 supremacy.

Watching the Olympics is obviously not the same for college standouts as when they first got into volleyball.

"I see how much slower it is," Payne said. …

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