Senior middle blocker Emillie Toone has remained strong through unexpected challenges this season.
Oct. 4, 2007
University of Utah volleyball player Emillie Toone has dreamed of being on the United States' National and Olympic teams for most of her life. But the first time Toone tried out for the USA National Volleyball Team, her dream was still only a dream. Toone was not asked to join the USA National Volleyball Team that year.
After a stellar 2006 season the door would once again open and Toone stepped up to the challenge. The events that followed made 2007 a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride for the 6-foot 7-inch senior.
In February, Toone tried out for the USA National Volleyball Team for a second time. She was among 125 women competing to be selected to the national team. After two days of tryouts, with three practices each day, Toone knew she had a good chance of being in the top 10 at her middle blocker position. Out of the 30 middle blockers trying out, Toone was selected as an alternate.
"I was very excited, because I had tried out in the past and had not received any position," Toone said. "Just to know that I was on the list was good to hear, but being the competitor I am, it still was not good enough for me."
A few weeks later, Toone was informed that she was no longer an alternate, but would be an active player for the team. She almost could not contain her excitement because her dream of playing with the USA National Team was now a reality.
In the middle of May, Toone began training in Austin, Texas, where the USA Volleyball Adult Open Championship was being held. During the week of training with her new team, Toone learned a lot about how to improve her own game.
"It was amazing to train with these five other middle blockers, because they taught me a lot," said Toone. "I learned that I need to get my arm up higher when I hit so that I can be hitting higher than the block."
After training ended, the Adult Open Championship tournament began. When Toone received her uniform and put it on something hit her.
The team seemed to be playing well, playing two to three matches a day. The last day of competition was single-elimination bracket play. Unfortunately, Toone and her team lost their first game and were out of the tournament.
"It was disappointing but I will forever remember the feeling that I had wearing USA on my back," said Toone. "I knew I would keep working to represent my country again later on down the road."
Back in Salt Lake, Toone was asked by an area coach to come and scrimmage against his team before they headed off to Nationals. Toone said her body was tired from the past couple of weeks, but she didn't see any reason not to help out. She agreed to play for an hour.
"I thought to myself - `an hour won't hurt,'" said Toone.
But hurt is exactly what happened. Twenty minutes into the scrimmage, Toone received a set that was tight to the net. After going up for the attack, she came down on a player's foot under the net. She felt her knee shift out of place.
Two weeks later Toone found out that she had torn her anterior cruciate ligament (the dreaded ACL tear). She had also torn some meniscus. Surgery was inevitable, which meant she would miss the 2007 season.
Her Ute team had already seen two players leave the program in the spring. Adding her injury to an already rough off-season was personally disappointing at first. Toone quickly realized that things happen for a reason and she couldn't do anything to change her circumstance.
Instead of feeling sorry for herself and her team, Toone tried to turn her injury into a positive. She is giving everything she can to her Utah teammates and coaches - just in a different role. Toone is providing support, encouragement and love for the game, reminding her teammates just how great playing can be.
Toone will be back in a Ute uniform next season, hoping to lead Utah to its goals. She'll also keep her own personal goals in mind as well.
"The dreams that I have for Utah and of being on the Olympic team are still there despite the injury," Toone said. "I know now that I need to work even harder to be able to come back stronger and better than I was."