Audriana Fitzmorris got her start in volleyball by watching her older sister, Alexandra, practice with her club volleyball team.
“When she was younger, I used to go to her club practices and tried to do what the players were doing,” said Audriana, an Overland Park resident.
Audriana has done pretty well since her humble beginnings in the sport.
She helped St. James Academy to the Class 5A state title in the school’s first year in 5A. She helped her Mavs 16-Blue team capture a national title in July in Dallas. This despite the fact that she is only 15.
And she topped that all off by making the United States Girls’ Youth National Volleyball team. Audriana was a middle blocker for the United States team that made history at the FIVB Girls U18 World Championships at Chatchi Hall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.
The American team lost to China in the championship match 25-16, 25-21, 25-23. But in making it to the championship match, it became the first United States volleyball team of either gender to win a world championship medal at the youth or junior level.
Fitzmorris, who will be a sophomore this year at St. James Academy, was picked as the best blocker in the tournament. The 6-foot-5 Fitzmorris finished with 25 blocks on 96 attempts and an average of .93 blocks per set.
“It was a great honor to be awarded the best blocker award,” she said. “I put a lot of effort and focus into blocking, not only into hitting.”
It was a long month away for Fitzmorris, who just returned home on Aug. 7.
“I was with my team in Thailand for two weeks after training together for two weeks in Anaheim,” she said.
The USA team posted a record of 6-2, playing against Slovenia, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Algeria, Poland, Chinese Taipei and China. The United States played Brazil in pool play and the semifinals.
“Most of the foreign players had played together for a very long time,” Fitzmorris said. “Also, the players are very disciplined and have a smart court IQ.”
She learned a lot about international volleyball competition.
“I was impressed at the level of competition and the speed of the game in international volleyball,” she said.
The Thunder sophomore was also impressed with her teammates.
“All of my teammates impressed me in a particular way,” she said. “Each person had amazing talents and a unique personality. This led us to have great team chemistry, and this showed in the tough matches.”
Now, Fitzmorris will be back for the high school season starting later this month and her club volleyball team after that.
“I learned that you cannot ever underestimate an opponent,” she said. “We entered the tournament as an underdog, and we were not looked upon as a threat.
“However, we held the high goal to be the first USA team to win a medal, and we fought hard to accomplish it.”
Fitzmorris has already attracted the attention of the major college powers in volleyball, but she has some time before she needs to make that decision. Also, there are the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to consider.
“I have thought about it, but that can be really overwhelming,” she said. “Instead, I try to focus on smaller goals. I want to keep improving each step at a time to become the best I can be.”