Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that is too good to refuse, especially when you have worked so hard all your sporting life to put yourself in a position to be able to be considered.
This is what has happened for Murtoa College volleyballer Cleo Baker, with the opportunity to represent an Australian team on a volleyball tour of America in the mid-year school holidays.
Following in the footsteps of fellow Murtoa College student Laelah Robertson from last year, Baker will head off to Florida on June 18 and will compete in the 2019 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) USA Championships from June 19-25, before spending time training and playing against various American colleges both indoor and on the beach.
The AAU Championships attracts over 600 college scouts and 10,000 athletes competing over 150 courts in a volleyball experience that can’t be replicated in Australia.
Baker was offered the opportunity after being spotted at an Australian Youth Squad camp last December and couldn’t believe her luck that the offer was made.
“Mum sat on the offer for three weeks before making a decision to accept, and we only made the decision to go on the day the offer expired,” said a keen as mustard Baker.
Baker’s mother Jo was just as excited and nervous at the same time when the offer arrived.
“I couldn’t believe it hence the reason I sat on the offer for as long as I did, but after seeking the opinions of those closest to Cleo, we agreed to accept,” said Jo.
Baker has been steadfast in her desires to be in a position to be considered for a USA scholarship over the past three years, making the most of every opportunity to improve her game and play the best volleyball she can.
“She has made state teams over that time and been to Aus Camps and Talent Identification Trainings, as well as working her butt off at home, so she certainly is in a good position to play some good volleyball,” said Volleyball Horsham president David Berry.
A nervous but excited Baker is looking forward to the trip.
“The opportunity to play in front of college scouts is what excites me the most, as it is my ultimate ambition to be considered for a USA scholarship,” Baker said.
Baker will have plenty of opportunities in the lead up to the Florida tour to get her game in order, with her Murtoa College senior girls team qualifying for the Greater Western Zone regional finals in Warrnambool at the end of this month, then hopefully the SSV state finals after that, the Victorian Country Championships in Bendigo over the long weekend in June, where she will play division one and her regular Reserves State League games for Phantoms.
“I just love playing and training and I have such a wonderful support network around me, I hope to do them all proud when I go to America,” said Baker.