June 14, 2013
By Jon Cooper
All good things must come to an end, but Chanell Clark-Bibbs refuses to let her freshman year go without a fight.
On Thursday afternoon, the talented middle blocker from Houston, Texas, learned that she wouldn’t have to … at least for a few more weeks as she was named to the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team.
The 12-woman squad will participate in the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Under-21 World Championship, which will be held in the cities of Brno and Prostejov in the Czech Republic June 21-30.
Clark-Bibbs had little margin for error in the tryouts, as only 13 players took part in the training sessions held in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“It was nerve-wracking knowing you have all these other girls and you have to perform,” she said. “You have to be pretty efficient. It felt good. I made it. It doesn’t get that much more satisfying.”
Clark-Bibbs’ play satisfied Team USA coaches, who had plenty of positive feedback for her in their final meetings.
“One of the coaches said he liked how he could put me in different positions, be it right side or back row. I wasn’t scared of the challenge,” she said. “I worked hard and I did what I needed to do. He liked that. I didn’t have any fear when I was playing. He also liked that. The other coach said he liked that I was a hard worker. It showed in my personality that I was going to do what I needed to do to contribute to the team.”
None of their remarks, nor Clark-Bibbs selection to the team came as any surprise to Georgia Tech volleyball head coach Tonya Johnson.
“I’m not surprised she made the team,” Johnson said. “This was one of her goals. She’s the type of kid that when she makes up her mind that she wants something, she goes and gets it.”
The 6-1 middle blocker went and got it during her inaugural season with the Yellow Jackets, earning All-ACC Freshman honors by finishing fourth on the team with 117 kills (1.80 kills per set), fourth on the team with 57 blocks, and second on the team with 10 solo blocks.
Clark-Bibbs’ only struggle on the court was her literally getting on the court, as the start of her collegiate career was delayed by a stress fracture in her shin, which required surgery in August, then nearly a month and a half of rehab.
But once she was cleared by Georgia Tech’s training staff, there would be no keeping her down.
“Certainly it could have but she’s a battler,” said Johnson. “She’s a kid that wants to be great. She’s her own toughest critic. She knows when she’s doing well, she knows when she’s not. Her aspirations are to be a great volleyball player and I think she’s well on her way. [Making the Junior National Team] does nothing but boost her confidence about the type of player that she is. It’s a great honor for her to represent the USA and to be playing amongst some other stud volleyball players.”
Clark-Bibbs is turning out to be a stud and is already doing things almost unprecedented at Georgia Tech. Prior to her being named to the U.S. Junior Team, only one other Yellow Jacket in the history of the program had ever made the team. That was Kyleen Bell, who did so as a sophomore, in 1999.
Chanell was five years old.
Yellow Jackets volleyball will party like it’s 1999 during the U-21 World Championships as they watch one of theirs take the floor.
“We couldn’t be more proud of her,” said Johnson.
Clark-Bibbs not only is excited about seeing the world’s best volleyball players, but seeing the world.
“This is my first time actually being out of the country” she said. “It’ll be fun.”
The world tour begins in Montreal, where the team will fly after a Saturday morning practice, then moves on to Europe, landing in Germany, then Austria and finally driving to the Czech Republic.
Johnson knows her talented freshman is ready for the trip — she helped her prepare — and believes she’s ready for whatever should come up.
“We had to work on getting her her passport the last few weeks,” Johnson said. “She’s a kid that’s open-minded and very receptive to change and I think she’ll be fine and she’ll adjust well. She’s going there to do something she absolutely loves. So I think it will be a great time for her, a great experience for her to learn about a new culture and experience different things. It’s an awesome opportunity for her.”