Thursday, August 28, 2008

Prior Lake's Busse set for '08 Olympics

Prior Lake's Busse set for '08 Olympics

November 21, 2007

Prior Lake's Busse set for '08 Olympics
by Jeff Barthel

Ten years ago, there was a modest 15-year-old girl growing up in Prior Lake. Since then, Cassie Busse hasn’t been able to be home much.

However, this holiday season, the former Prior Lake Christian School volleyball standout will be home to share her tales of qualifying for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

“It’s such an amazing feeling,” said Busse following her team’s sweep of Japan at the FIVB World Cup Nov. 15. “After a long season of working hard, we can finally see the fruits of our labor.”

Busse, a two-time All-American (2002, 2003) with the Minnesota Gophers, is one of two former Gophers standouts who participated in the recent International Volleyball World Cup tournament in Japan.

An outside hitter, Busse has been teamed up with another ex-Gophers standout:four-time All-Big Ten setter Lindsey Berg. Berg had been seeing more playing time than Busse, but neither Busse nor Berg actually played in the Japan match.

While Berg serves as one of the team’s primary setters, Busse (being relatively new to the team) serves the role of backup opposite hitter.

However, in Team USA’s Nov. 15 match versus Italy, Busse was able to step in and play some significant minutes. In fact, she provided a performance the other end of Team USA’s former Gophers star tandem appreciated dearly.

“She played free and relaxed and played great,” said Berg following Team USA’s three-set loss to Italy Nov. 15. “I’m really happy and proud of her. There is only a bright future ahead for Cassie.”

The U.S. was 9-1 heading into its match versus Italy, but the team was without the services of its starting opposite hitter, Tayyiba Haneef-Park. This allowed for the insertion of Busse, and not only did she get to play against the Italians, she played quite well.

Busse recorded nine kills, three digs, one block and a service ace while playing a major role in all three games. The kill total tied Busse for the team-high with former Stanford standout Logan Tom, but despite the strong performance the Prior Lake native remained humble.

“I’m very lucky to be able to play with such skilled players,” Busse said. “My setters, Berg and Robyn Santos, are such talented setters, they make my job a lot easier.”

Another factor Busse acknowledged was scouting – or a lack thereof.

“Also, I don’t think the Italians really knew much about me,” she said. “They probably didn’t have much video on me.”

Whatever the case, the loss to Italy gave Team USA a lot of things to work on and greater tasks to face in the weeks and months before Beijing.

Italy finished with an 11-0 record and the gold medal. Brazil, which Team USA upset 3-2 on Nov. 7, won the silver, while the United States took home the bronze.

While Busse played in parts of other matches, there were none like Italy. So what was the most important thing she learned from that match?

“That no matter who is on the other side of the net, USA Volleyball needed to play ‘USA Volleyball,’” said Busse. “If we’re playing our best and playing together, we are a force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t matter if our opponent is ranked first or last, we step on that court knowing we’re going to give 100 percent.”

In the meantime, back at the Busse household in Prior Lake, her family is excited to have her back for the first time since September. She plans to be home for close to six weeks, and her mom, Nancy, is as excited as anyone.

“We’re all more than excited – her sisters, her niece, everyone – we’re all excited,” Nancy said. “She’s just so fun to be around.”

After the holidays, Cassie says she plans to head back to Colorado to begin training for the Olympics. The team will fully regroup in May to commence Team USA’s official training for Beijing and the 2008 Olympics, which run Aug. 9-23.

**This story was published in the Prior Lake American and Savage Pacer. A newspaper in Busse's hometown and a neighboring Minneapolis suburb.

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