Kelly Lamberti is well aware that, even at 6 feet tall, she isn't the biggest outside hitter around.
As much as she has flourished during her Ohio University volleyball career, Lamberti also understands coming from a smaller school means she will often be overlooked, especially when she's surrounded by elite-level players from bigger-name college programs.
The former Cary-Grove standout will travel to Europe in July to compete with the U.S. Collegiate National Team on a tour that doubles as a second tryout for the U.S. Women's National Team.
Guy Petty – a trainer at Superior Speed Center in Crystal Lake – will spend the next six weeks preparing Lamberti for the 10-day trip when she will be the only player not representing a BCS-level program. At the same time, though, Petty will also focus on Lamberti's senior season at Ohio, where she has been an All Mid-American Conference selection the past three seasons.
Twice a week, Lamberti will undergo hour-long workouts designed to improve her vertical jump and overall volleyball conditioning level. The private sessions are, however, on top of the four days a week Lamberti trains on her own – part of a off-season training routine that Lamberti feels is necessary for national team consideration.
"I want to go and work hard and prove to people that I can be on the national team if they gave me a chance," Lamberti said. "I have to go in and out-work people and, if I don't make the national team, I'll come out saying I did everything I could."
For Division I athletes like Lamberti, putting extra time in conditioning away from team-sponsored workouts is becoming a full-time responsibility.
Spending her summer working with Petty comes after a college season when Lamberti was an All-America honorable mention and was again one of the MAC's top players. But devoting a full calendar year to volleyball is nothing new for Lamberti, who was a four-year starter at C-G, won the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year award her senior year and also playeed for Sky High Volleyball.
The full-scale attention to volleyball has continued at Ohio, where even voluntary workouts are considered mandatory. It now extends into the summer as Lamberti prepares for the European tour. But as hard as Lamberti will work to compete against other elite-level players, Petty said it's important to maintain a balance between maximum effort and not pushing too hard.
"It doesn't do any good to be able to have a great vertical and not be able to use it because you're sidelined," Petty said. "But in Kelly's case, going for this spot (on the national team), these are high-level people and so anything she can do to have an advantage is going to be critical to her."
On Wednesday, Lamberti moved from one training station to another, transitioning from jumping boxes to a stop where she heaved a medicine ball against a wall. As she went through a rotation of front squats and two training exercises to improve Lamberti's flexibility and trunk and shoulder stability, Petty charted everything on a clipboard, monitoring every move.
As demanding as the workouts can be, Lamberti understands the benefit to putting in the extra time, giving her a chance to push her competition for a spot on the national team roster.
"I have to improve what I can improve," Lamberti said. "I have to be the one to be in the best shape on the court. I have to have the endurance....So I have to put in the extra work."