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Southlake Style

Flashback: Carroll Junior Wins 2016 AAU National Beach Volleyball Championship

Dec 14, 2016 08:05AM ● By Kevin
The 23rd AAU Girls’ Junior National Beach Volleyball Championship took place July 6-9 in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and a local athlete helped make history at the event. Southlake's Abby Carroll, a junior at Carroll High School, and Austin's Simone Priebe, a junior at Vandegrift High School, were the first ever duo from Texas to win the tournament.

The girls’ championships, according to the AAU's website, have become one of the largest beach volleyball events in the country, "with more than 300 pairs coming from across the nation converging on Hermosa Beach, [Calif.] to compete."

Participants came from all over the world, including 25 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia. Carroll and Priebe took home the gold in the Girls 16 & Under category.

"It shows how beach is evolving as a sport," Carroll said. "More people are starting to play, as before California girls were only playing, because it’s right there and beach is something to do. I was excited, because we worked hard. Nobody expected us to win. Even our coaches. They expected us to do well ... but winning ... the first Texas team ever ... it was a huge accomplishment. I'm very proud."

Carroll took some time to chat with Southlake Style to reflect upon her trip to California.

Southlake Style: Tell us about the experience and everything leading up to it.

Abby Carroll: On the last day in June we drove to California. I stayed there the whole entire month. I had been practicing through the winter. Not many tournaments, just practicing with my coach in Plano. We had a coach in California, too, so we were practicing with her. 

In the tournament, they didn’t seed many girls from Texas. We were ranked 62nd in the tournament to start out. We entered into a three-team pool and were ranked third in our pool. We won our pool. It's a much bigger statement when you win your pool when you’re ranked almost last in the tournament. 

Next, we went into a power pool, which is a pool of all the first place teams. We won all but one game in the power pool. It was the team we played in the championship the next day. The first day, we played eight games total and went 7-1. The second day, we played five games. In the finals, we played a girl going to UCLA and a girl going to Pepperdine. We played one game to 21. It was 24-22. It had to go extra. It was really cool, but it’s just like a dog fight. We were seeded so low in the tournament.

SS: How did you get involved in beach?

Carroll: I played indoor when I was in 8th grade. One of the girls on the team played beach. She asked me to come to practice one day. I was like, 'I don’t know, it’s kind of far.' After practice, I loved it, and the next year I quit indoor and did just beach. I was introduced by a teammate and fell in love, I guess. I love it! 

SS: Do you plan on continuing your beach career in college?

Carroll: Oh yes. I’m going to University of South Carolina. I’m a junior now, and then I’m going to play beach for them. It was a verbal commitment. I committed Easter, my sophomore year.

I'm looking to do sports marketing and management as of now. It could change. I always like being around sports. I see how the tournaments work and run that I go to. I just want to be involved in something like that. I like athletes and like athletic people. My love of volleyball makes me want to be around sports when I’m a lot older.

At South Carolina, I got to talk to [professors of] the different majors I was interested in. The people involved in that field, I really liked. It was a cool part of campus and a perfect fit I think. They were my kind of people.

SS: Tell us about yourself in athletic activities. What sports do you play at Carroll?

Carroll: Other than beach, I did make the golf team but I didn’t play.

SS: Tell us about Abby off the court. What types of activities do you do for fun? What’s your current favorite subject in school?

Carroll: Outside of volleyball, I coach a parks and [recreation] team on Tuesdays. Games are on Saturdays. I like doing that. I hang out with my friends. My favorite subject in school would probably be U.S. History right now or English. I really like my English teacher. Volleyball pretty much takes up most of my time. I also liketanning, relaxing, hanging out. I like to swim. 

SS: If you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you first started playing beach, what advice would you give to yourself?

Carroll: I would tell myself not to underestimate my abilities because every time I went to California, I automatically assumed they were so much better than me. I’d tell myself not to be afraid. I was very hesitant the first year. I was very nervous. I didn’t talk to people. I didn’t have high enough expectations. Last year, I had higher expectations - believed I could win nationals - and it actually happened!

SS: Tell us more about your partner.

Carroll: A coach at a tournament that we were both at told us we’d be really good together. This was my first year playing beach. So, one day I texted her. I said, 'Hey, do you want to go to Florida and go to a tournament?' She said, 'Sure, see you in Forida.' 

We met and talked the first time in Floriday and placed second in the tournament, which is pretty good for the first time even meeting each other. She’s tall and athletic. She’s got a really positive attitude and is just a fun person to be around. She doesn’t let me get in my own head, be negative about anything I’ve done or any mistakes I make.

SS: Did you watch much of the Olympics this year? Do you have a favorite team/player? Who do you look up to, either in your personal life or famous athletes/celebrities, as a role model or role models? 

Carroll: I watched multiple of Kerri [Walsh Jennings] and April [Ross]’s games. Probably all of them. I like watching them a lot.

I’d say my brother. He’s also very athletic. He played golf and baseball. He worked very hard at everything he did. He taught me how to work hard, showed me what it’s like to be dedicated to a sport. I followed in his footsteps probably. 

Photos courtesy of AAU National Beach Volleyball and Liz Carroll.