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California teen holding her own with top U.S. volleyball talent

By: Neal Reid sports@gazette.com
May 15, 2014 Updated: May 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm
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U.S. outside hitter Hayley Hodson blocks a spikes by Guatemala's Lourdez Cruz Thursday, May 15, 2014, during the World Championship NORCEDA qualifier at the World Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The U.S. team won in three straight sets. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The average 17-year-old might worry about their car, cliques at school or getting ready for prom, but Hayley Hodson is not average.

The California phenom is more concerned with her place in the ranks of USA Volleyball. She is working to improve on an explosive and raw skill set that has seemingly endless potential. Hodson, a junior at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, is in Colorado Springs this weekend as part of Team USA's 12-member squad that is participating in the FIVB World Championship NORCECA Qualifying Tournament at the Olympic Training Center.

The youngest player on the team, Hodson was content Thursday after contributing two digs and a kill in the United States' 25-10, 25-18, 25-11 win over Guatemala.

"This is a great group of girls," said Hodson, who led her high school team with 407 kills as a junior. "We're a good volleyball team that came to win, and I think we can."

The 6-foot, 4-inch outside hitter with a 10-2 wingspan has been training with this U.S. team since January.

"Any time you can play international volleyball, it just expands your tool belt and teaches you different ways to play the game," said Hodson, who plays with the TStreet Volleyball Club in Irvine, Calif.

Kelly Reeves, captain of the U.S. team, is impressed by the gifted teenager.

"She's a great kid and definitely holds her own with us," said Reeves, a UCLA graduate who led the U.S. with 12 points against Guatemala. "She came in the gym on Day 1, and we were like, 'What? This kid's got game.' She is young, but I definitely think she has a lot of potential."

David Hunt, who is coaching the team at the OTC this weekend, has been impressed by Hodson's maturity.

"We were sitting next to each other on the flight here, and I had to keep reminding myself that she was only 17 years old," said Hunt, an assistant men's volleyball coach at Pepperdine and a resident coach for the U.S. Women's National Team program. "She's a well-spoken individual who's mature way beyond her years."

The winners of this weekend's tournament qualify for the 2014 FIVB Women's World Championship that will be played in Italy Sept. 23-Oct. 12.

"Every day, you come in to earn your spot, and as long as I'm doing my part, good things may happen," Hodson said. "It's not in my hands, and my job is just to play as well as I can every time I step on the court."

Hodson has represented the United States for years at various levels at a number of international events, and the honor never gets old for the youngster.

"I love it, and it's always an honor and a great opportunity to put on your country's jersey and play," said Hodson, who has committed to Stanford. "Every time I see our flag and they introduce me, I'm like, 'You know what? This is a big deal.'"

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