Tori Passarelli misses her Chatfield High teammates, especially her fellow seniors.
She is disappointed that she doesn’t get to experience the wild swing of emotions on senior night and that she’s missing out on one last season of assorted silliness and memory-making with her teammates.
Passarelli, who signed a letter of intent to play volleyball for Laramie County Community College on Sunday, is missing out on all of those last hurrahs because she chose to skip her final season of prep volleyball to train with her Colorado Juniors club team this fall.
The 5-foot-4 libero knows that spending the fall on the sand courts in the Colorado Springs-based club’s training facility instead of riding a bus to various gyms around the Denver suburbs is unconventional. But she makes no apologies for her choice.
“It was a really tough decision,” Passarelli said. “I have great relationships with my high school teammates and I missed having all of the cool things that seniors get like senior night and having your picture hung up on the wall. It was hard, but I had to do what I felt was best for me and my future.”
Passarelli ran her plan by first-year LCCC coach Austin Albers and assistant Britney Brown before deciding to skip her final season of prep volleyball.
“It’s not common,” Albers said. “Most players finish it out. But her goal was to really develop individually and step into a big role for us next season. She felt that this was going to be good for her.”
Passarelli hadn’t played sand volleyball until this fall when Colorado Juniors debuted the courts at its facility where she has mixed in sand matches between individual workouts. The 2-on-2 matches feature limited blocking and require players to pass the ball to hitters instead of setting it to them.
Playing on the sand has made Passarelli a better player.
“As a libero, I have to be able to move quick and be agile,” she said. “I thought sand would help with that, especially with reading hitters. You have to read shots by looking at their shoulder and wrist and whether they drop their thumb. Playing sand this fall really helped with that.”
Passarelli’s fall in the sand included a weekend playing with U.S. national-teamer Brittany Hochevar.
“We weren’t together for very long, but I learned a lot,” Passarelli said.
Colorado Juniors will start its season Nov. 9, the day after the Colorado High School Athletic Association championships. Players will be able to choose to specialize in sand volleyball or traditional court volleyball. Passarelli has enjoyed her foray into the sand game but will head back to the court next week.
“There are people who fall in love with it the first time they play it,” Passarelli said. “I can see why they like it, but I prefer playing on the court.”
Albers described the training Passarelli is getting with her club as “second-to-none” and assures that she’ll be ready to step on campus and contribute for the Golden Eagles.
“She’s been able to focus more on fitness, training and those types of things,” the LCCC coach said. “She’s getting stronger, playing at a high speed and a high level of play. A lot of kids struggle going from the high school level to the college level.
“The club she’s playing with is comparable to what we’re seeing on a daily basis. She’ll be prepared and ready to contribute here.”
That should make those missed memories worth it.