Sandra Mohr knew earning a spot on the Sports Performance elite club volleyball team would not be easy.
She was also aware playing on the squad would require a good deal of personal sacrifice on her part.
As it turned out, the commitment involved nearly four hours on the road four times per week, traveling between Muskego and Aurora, Illinois, the home of the Sports Performance program.
As a result, she took online courses to finish her senior year at Muskego High School, doing much of her homework in the car on the trips.
In addition, she also spent two Easter breaks not on a sunny beach somewhere in Florida but in gyms in the Dominican Republic and Japan training with those national teams.
Despite all of these demands, though, Mohr continued to pursue her dream, and all the effort paid off when the Sports Performance team captured both national and world championships on the same day, June 26, in Orlando, Florida.
Playing was an honor
'It was an honor to be on the team,' said Mohr, who was also a standout player for the Muskego Warriors the past couple of seasons. 'This was the perfect way to end (her high school career). It proved that all the dedication, all the things we did and all the sacrifices we made paid off. In the end, it was all worth it.'
Mohr played a significant role on the team, leading the squad in both hitting percentage (well over .400) and in blocks (one per set).
'She was a huge contributor to the team all the way,' said Rick Butler, the head coach and club director for Sports Performance. 'In our last two matches especially, for the national and world championships, she was a key player. I can't say enough about the firepower she brought us.'
Sports Performance is considered the top-rated 18 elite team in the nation, so it was the favorite heading into the AAU national tournament at the ESPN Center in Orlando.
The tournament offered a huge stage, with the largest attendance for a volleyball championship in U.S. history and a record-breaking number of players competing.
Going in with a large target on its back, Sports Performance unexpectedly went 1-2 on the first day of competition.
'We were kind of beaten up at the start,' Butler said. 'We lost a player to an ACL injury, and this was the first time this group had played together in a major tournament.'
The players kept their confidence, relied on their training and came back, winning eight of nine matches to finish 9-3 for the tournament.
Sports Performance beat Minnesota Select in two games in the final match to claim the 18 Open national crown, the program's fourth straight national championship.
The squad then played for the world championship about four hours later that day against the Dominican Republic, which had cruised through the international bracket.
Beat Dominican Republic
Sports Performance prevailed in two games, handing Dominican Republic its first loss of the season and gaining the first-ever world trophy for a United States team.
The championship celebration was exactly what Mohr had envisioned, hoped for and worked so hard toward after deciding to try out for the Sports Performance program.
'I saw the Sports Performance team in a tournament when I was 15 years old,' Mohr recalled. 'It was just amazing the way the team played. After that, I aspired to be on that team someday.'
Mohr participated in the intense, demanding tryouts and made the squad, playing for the team in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
For those two years, she and her family left Muskego about 12:30 p.m. on weekdays to go to Aurora for practice, which ran from 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Through the online courses, Mohr was able to graduate from Muskego with her class in June, with plenty of help along the way.
'Ms. Jean Merg (school counselor) and Ms. Shannon Blunt (teacher) worked with me through crazy times and schedules and never gave up on me or let me slack off,' Mohr said. 'I could never thank them enough for their constant encouragement and guidance through the years to help me reach my goals.'
Mohr said there are several reasons for the huge success of the Sports Performance program.
'Coaching is one factor,' she said. 'Coach Butler is known throughout the world in volleyball circles. The girls have such dedication. They come to practice early and stay after practice to work some more. They do what the coaches say and put it into practice on the court.'
Visit to Japan
The Sports Performance team becomes even better through trips like the ones Mohr took to the Dominican Republic and Japan the past two springs.
'Japan was not easy,' she said. 'First, you're dealing with the time change. Also, the culture is so different. We had to learn to use chopsticks, and we were sleeping on the floors.'
Mohr is headed to Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, to play volleyball and study for the ministry.
'I had committed to Iowa,' she said, 'but I felt a pull from God to go into the ministry. I can't wait to get on Evangel's campus and start hanging out and playing. Coach Mary Whitehead is making sure I'm staying strong and in shape, so I'm ready to go when I get on campus.
'She has been great about staying in touch and talking about practices and tournaments and what to expect. I can't wait to play for her and Evangel.'