August 5, 2011

North grad tours Europe with club team

Volleyball has taken Taylor Clendenin places. Some farther away than others.

A marvelous career at North Iredell High led to a college scholarship. The Lees-McRae rising junior recently left the North Carolina high country to compete across the pond.

In July, Clendenin and other regional players formed Team Nfinity and embarked on a nearly two-week tour of Europe for international volleyball competition that started in Rome and culminated with the Global Challenge in Pula, Croatia.

Nfinity spent several days in Italy sight-seeing, practicing, and competing in Rome and Florence, where it won both of its exhibition matches leading up to the tournament in Croatia.

At the Global Challenge, Nfinity placed seventh out of 12 teams and third among six American teams.

Not too bad considering the team members didn't practice together prior to arriving in Italy.

"It was definitely an unbelievable experience," said Clendenin, a vital part of North Iredell's 3A state championship-winning team in 2008 that finished undefeated. "We got to play against junior national and national teams, and they were amazing. It's such a different game over there. It's a lot faster pace. It was a great experience."

While in Europe, Clendenin blogged daily about her experiences on and off the court.

"Awesome trip," she said. "Would love to go back."

Coincidently, Clendenin began pondering this summer about playing internationally in the future. Playing for Nfinity stroked her interest.

"Eventually, I want to maybe go play overseas," she said. "That kind of opened my eyes to what I need to do, what I'm going to be prepared for and how I need to train and play."

An honor roll student-athlete, Clendenin returns to Lees-McRae in the coming weeks for her junior season.

Lees-McRae qualified for the NCAA Division II Regionals both times since Clendenin joined the women's volleyball team as a freshman.

Clendenin, an outside hitter, recorded 249 kills last season in helping the Bobcats to an undefeated run through the Conference Carolinas. They won the league regular-season and tournament titles and finished 25-8 overall.

"I'm excited to go back and start playing again," Clendenin said. "We did very well last year."