USA Volleyball has announced the 12-woman roster which will comprise the Team USA under-20 squad in the 2017 Pan American Cup, and there will be a purple cat heading to Costa Rica.
Freshman middle blocker Elle Sandbothe, last seen rising to prominence as the baton was passed from K-State’s great senior class in the NCAA Tournament, will don the red, white, and blue this May. Team USA is still attempting to qualify for the FIVB Junior World Championships, to be held in Mexico in July. This tournament is the final opportunity.
Sandbothe got her feet wet early in the season as a substitute, but as conference play heated up she worked her way into the starting rotation for the final month of the regular season and eventually led the squad in blocks per set on the way to Big 12 All-Freshman honors. She also started in the NCAA Tournament, eventually facing off against her sister, Ohio State middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe. That personal battle was very nearly a draw, although Ohio State did emerge with the victory in the end.
The Kansas City area is well-represented on the squad — perhaps absurdly so. Fully one quarter of the roster hails from the area. Sandbothe, a Lee’s Summit native, is joined by Kentucky setter Madison Lilley, the 2016 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year at Blue Valley West in Overland Park, and Spring Hill’s Regan Pittman, a 6’5” middle blocker who attended St. Thomas Aquinas and is now plying her trade for the Minnesota Gophers.
Sandbothe and Pittman will fight for playing time with Texas freshman Brionne Butler. Sandbothe has the edge in varsity experience, Pittman in height, and Butler in head coach: Team USA U-20 is led by Longhorn head coach Jerritt Elliott.
Team USA begins its quest in group play on May 8 in the Costa Rican capital San Jose against Argentina, and then they face the Dominican Republic on May 9. After the three-team group phase, knockout rounds immediately commence, with the quarterfinals on May 10, semis on May 11, and championship on May 12.
Should Team USA qualify for worlds, Sandbothe will automatically receive an invitation to training camp in early July, at which the roster will be finalized for the world championship which begins on July 14.