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Will years of training pay off for Connetquot’s Mackenzie Cole?

Connetquot's Mackenzie Cole gets the dig during state

Connetquot's Mackenzie Cole gets the dig during state Class AA championship against Penfield at Glens Falls Civic Center on Nov. 19, 2016. Cole has a chance to make United States' U18 roster. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

This is familiar competition for Mackenzie Cole, but that doesn’t mean she’s expecting her next two weeks to be any easier.

The libero for the Connetquot girls volleyball team leaves Thursday for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as one of 20 athletes invited to the U.S. Youth National Training Team.

The group of 20 will be cut to 12 after a two-week training period from July 27 to Aug. 17, at which point the team leaves for the 2017 FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship from Aug. 18 to Aug. 27 in Rosario and Sante Fe, Argentina.

As one of two liberos invited to Colorado Springs, Cole’s chances of making the team aren’t clear. Brooke Nuneviller of Chandler, Arizona, returns after starting for the team last year.

“The girl I’m going up against is super talented, she’s committed to Oregon,” Cole said. “I’ve been playing with her since I was 12. I’ve been training basically all year for this. I’ve put myself in a good position to be successful.”

Cole will participate in three workout sessions a day while in Colorado Springs, with lunch breaks, film sessions and other team-oriented activities scheduled in the remaining periods.

She said her goal is to make the final cut, but she knows she’ll gain experience from the trip regardless of the result.

“Just being able to go and train with these top 20 girls, that’s humbling and a great experience,” she said. “If I was given the opportunity to play with the 12 overseas, that’d be even better.”

Should Cole make the team, which could be a preview of future U.S. Olympic volleyball teams, she might be ineligible for the opening of the fall high school season. With a minimum practice requirement, Cole said she might miss the first two or three matches of Connetquot’s season.

But that’s something her teammates and coach, Justin Hertz, said they can deal with — and it all hinges on whether she makes the U.S. roster.

The 2016 All-Long Island Suffolk Player of the Year, Cole enters her senior season in the conversation as the top player on Long Island thanks to her impeccable ball control, receiving and serving skills.

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