Vanderbilt Volleyball Represented Abroad

Lauren Plum documented her first week with the U.S. Team at the U21 FIVB World Championships

AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico — It’s been about a week and a half since Vanderbilt volleyball assistant coach Lauren Plum departed for the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball U21 World Championships as an assistant coach for Team USA.

Before departing for Aguascalientes, Plum met the national team in Anaheim, California, for training camp. Once in Mexico, the U21 team played three games in the first round of pool play at the World Championships, winning two games and losing one. In the third first-round game, the United States defeated the Netherlands, 3-1, moving to No. 8 in the world rankings and being placed in a new pool for round two.

Plum kept a journal of her experiences as an assistant coach for the U21 U.S. National Team.

2023 U21 U.S. Women’s National Team

Aug. 12: Arrival in Anaheim 

Once I got to Anaheim, I was able to meet up with the team and other coaches. First, Stacy Sykora, who is a three-time Olympian and fellow assistant coach, and I received our official gear for Worlds. Later that day, the U21 team gathered at the airport to welcome back the U19 national team, that had just won its division’s World Championships in Croatia. Five girls from the U19 team joined the U21 team for our tournament in Mexico.

Lauren Plum with fellow assistant coach Stacy Sykora

Aug. 12–15: Training Camp

For the next four days, we practiced together in California to prepare for our first game, which would be against Cuba. We had the opportunity to watch the senior women’s national team practice as it prepares for the Olympic qualifiers in September. The senior team talked to our girls, which was a great experience for them to hear from the reigning Olympic champions in the sport. The U21 team also got to hear from USA Volleyball’s sports psychologist, who contributed greatly to the team’s achievement of Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Lauren Plum with the U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Karch Kiraly

Aug. 16: On the Way to Aguascalientes

On Wednesday, we traveled to Aguascalientes, Mexico, to compete in the first of three pool-play games at the World Championships.

Aug. 17–19: Round One

Each game day looks pretty similar. We do a serve and pass (light practice) in the morning. The USA staff puts together a scout on the opponent the day before, and we will watch film with the players both as a team and individually. Film sessions are usually how we defend different countries and what their systems look like and how we attack those systems and score.

We split the first two games, sweeping Cuba, 3-0 and falling to Turkey, 3-1.

On Friday, the team beat the Netherlands, 3-1. This was an exciting moment for the team. It bumped them into the top eight internationally and into a new pool for the next round of competition. The U.S. team is also composed of several U19 athletes who are playing up an age division, while some of the Netherlands’ players are professional athletes for various European Teams.

We have also gotten to go to the local swap market to buy and bring back things for our friends and families. The players had fun trying to use their broken Spanish from grade school to bargain with the locals in Aguascalientes.

Now, the team will look towards Round Two of competition at the World Championships, playing against Italy, Brazil and Turkey in a new pool.