By Devin Golden
Even though her team is out of the running for a national championship, Christian Heritage School volleyball standout Jessica Seehorn is still having a lot of fun competing against some of the best players and travel teams in the country.
Seehorn is a member of the Choo Choo City Volleyball Club’s 17-and-under Black travel team. The Chattanooga-based squad is competing in the AAU 17U club team division national championship, which started Sunday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
Less than 100 teams remain in contention for the title in the 154-team event. Seehorn’s team isn’t one of them, but it will continue playing through Wednesday for national ranking.
Seehorn is happy to be in Orlando, a vacation paradise near such attractions as the Walt Disney World Resort, Sea World and Universal Studios Florida.
“It’s so fun,” Seehorn said. “It’s kind of tough getting up at 5:30 a.m., but then we’re done by noon and we can go to the different parks and stuff.”
After the first round of pool play on Sunday the bottom team in each pool was eliminated from championship contention and placed into a consolation bracket for Wednesday’s action. Seehorn’s team finished third in its pool on Sunday to stay alive for championship contention. On Monday, only the top two teams in each pool stayed alive and the bottom two moved to consolation contention. Seehorn’s squad finished third again.
“As far as playing, this is the best competition we’ve seen all year,” Seehorn said. “At nationals, you’re just trying to get as high of a ranking as you can. It’s just an accomplishment.”
The team’s results today will determine which consolation bracket it will be in Wednesday, and that determines the best-possible finish the team can accomplish out of the 154-team field.
“I think the highest we can finish is around half of that,” Black coach Michael Pittman said.
A setter for Christian Heritage School’s high school varsity team this past school year, her junior season, Seehorn earned a spot on The Daily Citizen’s 2012 All-Area Volleyball Team. She has been part of the Choo Choo City Volleyball Club since she was 13. She said she’s the only player from Murray or Whitfield counties on her team, although Christian Heritage teammate Brenna Mugge is on one of the program’s 16-and-under teams. There are two teams per age group, and Seehorn is on the higher-level team for the 17-and-under division.
Seehorn said she gravitated to volleyball due to the leadership requirements. She said “being a leader just kind of came natural” on the volleyball court.
“I’m loud, and in volleyball the loudest one is naturally the leader on the court,” she said. “I’m the loudest. I yell stuff. But I’ve had to learn how to use my leadership and not be bossy, be encouraging and not commanding.”
The club team’s season started in January and included tournaments in Knoxville, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn. The extra commitment required beyond high school volleyball is fine with Seehorn.
“It’s fun because we all love it, but you don’t play club unless you’re in it to win it,” she said.
Pittman called Seehorn one of the team’s leaders and said she is being recruited by a number of colleges. He said the AAU national championship is a major scouting event for volleyball programs at the next level.
Pittman added that an average of 12-14 players on Choo Choo City’s 18-and-under team — its highest age group — receive either an academic or athletic scholarship each season. That’s more than half of the players per age group. There are 11 players on Jessica’s team.
“She’s being recruited by a few schools,” Pittman said. “If she desires to play at the college level, then she can. With a lot of kids, it’s a matter of finding the right fit.”