Severna Park volleyball hitter Christi Laite traveled great lengths over the summer in an effort to step up her game. To Arizona, to be exact.
The junior, in her fourth year playing the sport, was part of a team that took part in a high-level international tournament in Tucson, where she strived to build on her reputation as a dominant front-row hitter. Laite has rounded out her game with improved passing and defense, and leads the young Falcons in their quest for a second straight Anne Arundel County title.
You previously had played basketball for nine years. What made you want to try volleyball?
I had played basketball for so long that my mom thought it would be good for me to try a new sport that I didn't really know a lot about. I tried [club volleyball] in the winter of eighth grade, and it just kind of stuck.
Tell me about your summer playing in Arizona.
Over the summer I made a regional team related to USA Volleyball. It was a high-performance team. For a couple weeks, we trained at various colleges around the area, and then for a week we traveled to Tucson, Ariz., and played in an international tournament out there.
What did you take away from that?
The caliber of play out there was much higher than anything you'll find around here, just because it was an international tournament and we played teams from around the world. It helped me so much and I learned a lot. It was an awesome experience.
What was the biggest difference between the way you were used to playing and the style of some of the international teams?
There were a lot of different defensive plays, and how they serve-received. But there was nothing too major.
You seem to have made some big strides in your game over the past year. Do you feel you've moved your game to the next level?
Yeah, definitely. It was just getting that exposure this summer, and I went to some really awesome camps. I feel like I've developed into an all-around player. For the past couple of years, I've just been a front-row player, where my coach would sub me out when I would go in the back row. But this year I've definitely worked really hard on my defensive skills, and now I'm playing all the way around. That's definitely improved.
How did you go about improving your defensive skills? Was that something you tried to focus on in club ball?
My coaches on my club team worked with me a lot on defense and made sure that I was working on it in practice and getting in on the defensive drills. ... And over the summer, I really tried to focus when I went to camps on taking in everything all the coaches were saying about defense. I would just go out in my front yard every day and do jump training, then take a ball and pass to myself. I was just really trying to focus on bettering my passing skills, so that when it came time for a game I was ready for that.
This season, you're part of a talented but fairly young team at Severna Park. What are the main areas you feel you need to work on to be able to win another Anne Arundel County title?
We have eight juniors and then only three seniors, and a couple people haven't played on the varsity before. We're just really trying to develop everyone as a team and create a team where we can bring everyone together under those high-pressure situations. When we're in those high-pressure situations where we're down a couple points, that's what we all really need to work on - bringing ourselves back, staying positive and not falling apart.
Do you find yourself looking ahead, imagining how good this team could be in the future?
Definitely. Actually, going into the season I wasn't even really thinking about this year. I was just thinking about next year, with all those juniors who are all going to be seniors and how awesome our team will be if everyone comes back and continues to improve at the level that they are. Definitely next year, we're going to be something to look out for.
How about your future, personally? Have you thought much about college yet?
I have not made a choice yet. Basically, I've been recruited to a handful of schools, but I'm mainly picking out a school where I would like to go for academics first. ... The main schools I'd really like to go to are the University of Miami and UNC-Wilmington, because of their science programs.