Lone Peak senior Kizzy Willey will be the first to say it: Nicaraguan volleyball fans are no joke.
On the US junior national team for the NORCECA tournament, she played some intense matches against hostile crowds in packed gyms with cement floors and tin roofing.
But winning a bronze medal and gaining some perspective on life abroad was well worth it, Willey said after returning from the tournament last week.
"You realize a lot of stuff you take for granted, like here we don't have any stray cats wandering through the gym," she said. "But it was really fun, we were glad to do our country proud."
Nicaragua did have world-class fans, and during competition, they were loudly rooting against the United States team. Willey cited the Americans' game against Cuba, when they came back from losing the first set, as a highlight of the trip.
"We had watched a lot of film on them, and we knew they had great physical ability and could jump high," Willey said. "We just had to dig the crap out of them and bounce some balls back. It was that kind of game, just a great, great game."
The team fell in the semifinals to the Dominican Republic before bouncing back against Costa Rica to earn third place. Finishing in the medals assures that the United States can send a team to Junior Continental Championship in the Czech Republic next June.
The roster will be different then, and Willey has to attend another tryout in January - she's graduating early, so she'll be at Arizona State by then. She said the loss to the Dominicans showed her that in the future, the US team needs to play more cohesively.
"You learn more when you lose," Willey said. "We were playing as individuals in that game. I'm not representing Utah anymore, I have to forget that. We're all representing the USA."
To take a break from international volleyball, Willey played some more volleyball, albeit closer to home.
After flying back from the tournament on Aug. 27, she played the next night for Lone Peak.
She helped the Knights sweep Northridge, 3-0.
"No breaks for me," she said, laughing.