Bowman trains with U.S. volleyball team

The University senior begins workouts today with the national team.

Heather L. Mueller

For Minnesota’s volleyball senior Kelly Bowman, the invitation to join the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Training Team came as a complete shock.

A two-time All-Big Ten First Team selection, Bowman assumed her career as a volleyball player would end at the college level, until she got a call from the national team in December.

“It was definitely an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” she said.

But as Bowman, a business and marketing major, canceled her last semester of classes, moved out of her apartment and packed her bags this weekend, it sank in that today is the first training day at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and she was going to be there.

Today, Bowman and five other female college volleyball players from around the country start workouts that will last for several months before the team’s season begins in June. Bowman will train as a setter and libero, a defensive position.

Although the women will train with the team, there is no guarantee they will have a spot on the roster for the 2007 U.S. nationals season. Only three of the team’s 18 roster spots are expected to be open.

At training camp, these athletes will face two-a-day practices and deal with increased strength and volley speed of professional players, said Tom Pingel, U.S.A. Volleyball director of high performance.

Jen Bowman, Kelly Bowman’s older sister and 2004 alumna of the U’s volleyball team, is proud of her sister.

“She’s become someone that even I can look up to as a volleyball player,” Jen Bowman said.

Jen and Kelly Bowman are one of two sets of sister to ever play on the Gophers team with each other.

“She has this presence on the court that you know if the ball comes to Kelly, she’s going to make a great play out of it. She emulates what a Minnesota volleyball player is supposed to be,” Jen Bowman said.

Although Kelly Bowman, who is often described as humble and a silent leader, might still be pinching herself, her family and friends knew she had the potential to play professionally.

“We see all of the great things that she does,” Jen Bowman said. “But she watches all of these national players and she doesn’t realize her ability is at that level as well.”

The University’s volleyball Head Coach Mike Hebert could not be reached for comment.

Kristi Bowman, Kelly Bowman’s mother, remembers tossing the volleyball back and forth to her children and playing in parent-child tournaments. Now Kristi Bowman proudly shows her support in the stands at all home and away games.

“I used to say watching her play in college was why I shuttled her to all the practices and everything,” Kristi Bowman said. “But once again, I can say this is what it’s really all for. And I’ll be there to watch.”

Now, Kelly Bowman is ready to begin the next step in her playing career, joining four other University players who have either competed or trained with the national team.

If she doesn’t make the team, Bowman plans to finish her degree at the University and could possibly take up coaching.

“I still think of myself as this hometown Minnesota kid born and raised, and when I’m out there I’m just going to completely embrace that,” Kelly Bowman said. “I’m really excited to be a newcomer and be fresh, and just let them teach me all the stuff that they want me to learn.”