Zimmer's next test comes at nationals

July 03, 2007|By DAN KAUFFMAN

The next step in the volleyball career of 2006 Herald-Mail Player of the Year Kate Zimmer is a big one.

Zimmer, a middle hitter for North Hagerstown who will play for the University of Maryland starting in 2008, is part of the Maryland Juniors 17U National Yellow team, which begins play Thursday in the USA Volleyball Junior Olympic National Championships in Minneapolis.

"I think it's going to be an amazing experience and a memory that will last for a long time," Zimmer said. "The cailber of play, just seeing what that's like will be very rewarding."

Maryland 17U Yellow is one of 48 teams competing in their age group. It will compete in pool play Thursday and Friday, with the tournament scheduled to wrap up Sunday.


Zimmer ranks first in hitting percentage (.498), blocks (1.08 per game) and passing efficiency, and third in kills (2.15 per game) and aces (63 in 133 games) on the team.

She is surrounded by an all-star cast of Maryland's best high school players, including River Hill's Maddi Lee (3.00 kills per game), who also is a Maryland recruit. Zimmer is not asked to carry a large part of the load, a big change from when she wears North's colors.

"It's a lot less pressure and I can really focus on what I need to work on," Zimmer said. "They actually have us running a lot quicker tempo than we see in high school. It's to a level where you're already up in the air before the setter sets the ball. The sets are spread out a lot more, and we're more cohesive as a team. It's really nice to just be able to focus on your part of it rather than having to do it all."

As a 6-foot-3 target in the middle, the threat Zimmer provides often does more damage to opponents than the damage she herself inflicts.

"I am now in charge of kinda being a decoy because it's so quick," Zimmer said. "I have to be up on time knowing I'm not going to get the ball every time, so that it opens up things for other hitters. It's sort of like a sacrifice bunt in baseball."

Zimmer's trip to Minneapolis for the Junior Olympic Nationals will be followed by a trip to China's sports academy for two weeks of training - a unique experience in which Zimmer herself is not sure what to expect.

"We were told we're going to run up a mountain every morning as a warmup," Zimmer said. "It's exciting."

Before she is challenged by the mountain, Zimmer and the rest of her team will be challenged by the best teams from all corners of the United States.

"It's going to be the best talent we have ever seen," Zimmer said. "We're going to be facing strong teams and we're looking forward to the challenge."

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