Poulter relishing ‘surreal’ reunion with Bartsch-Hackley

Reaching the upper echelons of your profession and showcasing your talent across the globe is something few can comprehend. For Jordyn Poulter, the opportunity to share this experience with somebody she once idolized is a “dream come true”.

This week, Poulter is aiming to cash in a share of the $1million cheque awarded to the FIVB Volleyball Nations League champions and is joined by fellow Illinoisan, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley.

Eight years her senior, Bartsch-Hackley has been there and done it. The 29-year-old outside hitter was named Most Valuable Player at last year’s VNL and has played professionally in Puerto Rico, Germany and Italy.

“This is the first time that I’ve really gotten to play with Bartschy since I was a seventh grader at Illinois camps, so needless to say it has been a dream come true,” Poulter revealed to The News Gazette.

“It’s surreal to have grown up watching and admiring her as a player to now being friends and teammates with her.”

Alongside fellow setter Lauren Carlini, Poulter was selected in the 14-strong VNL Finals Week squad by head coach Karch Kiraly and says it is an “honor” to represent her country on such a big stage.

“I was shocked” – Poulter

“I was shocked to be quite honest,” Poulter said on her selection. “All of the setters in the gym and on this roster are extremely skilled in their craft, and I am honored to be able to train with them day in and day out. It has been incredible.

“I am constantly in an environment where I am being pushed to be better, which for me, makes it fun.

“We have faced all five teams here in prior weeks and taken lessons from each of those matches that have made us better as the weeks have progressed.”

Illinois head coach Chris Tamas instructs Jordyn Poulter/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Somebody who knows Poulter inside out is the coach from her University of Illinois playing days, Chris Tamas, who says he is “not surprised” to see her on the world stage.

“I think it’s awesome,” Tamas said. “To have those players representing the USA at the highest level and in the best tournament of the year with one year left to go in the Olympic quad says a lot about what Illinois has produced. It shows we’re producing good players with world class talent.

“I wasn’t overly surprised about that just based on what I’ve known about Jordyn and how driven she is toward her goals.

“She’s definitely earned her stripes early on here and was able to show the rest of the world as well.”