Mackenzie Cooler wasn't sure she believed it. The volleyball standout at Bluffton High School had to examine the news herself.
"I had to go back and check to make sure that it was my number on the list," she recalled. "I just started freaking out."
The excitement was justified. The rising junior had just discovered at a tryout in Atlanta in late March that she was one of only 22 athletes nationwide -- and the only one from South Carolina -- named to the 2012 U.S. Women's Junior National A2 volleyball team.
"I wasn't expecting it at all," she said. "At all. Ever."
Her "shocking" admittance onto the national team would have been thrilling enough for her and her Bobcat counterparts. That was, until, Bluffton discovered Cooler would be joined by middle blocker Abby Roulston, who earned one of eight spots at her position in the USA Volleyball High Performance Indoor National Women's Junior A3 Program, which features just 64 players in all.
An impressive feat for the Bobcats, to say the least.
"For us, it's a really big deal," Bluffton coach Al Stern said.
Stern's statement is no exaggeration. Both girls become the first Bluffton players selected to their respective teams, and it is just the second time players have been selected in the 16-year history of the Low Country Volleyball Club, which Stern also coaches.
Roulston plans on helping the Bobcats improve after sharing information from her trip, which she'll make from July 14-18 in Colorado Springs.
"I'm excited to go to the camp and bring back stuff to share with my teammates, definitely," she said.
Cooler, meanwhile, will head to Des Moines, Iowa, from July 19-29. She'll spend the first half of the trip training before taking the court against international competition over the final five days. She and the rest of the A2 team will be coached by University of Central Florida coach Todd Dagenais along with a host of other college coaches.
Cooler, one of just four setters selected, says coaches from both the Junior National and Olympic teams will be in attendance as they scout potential players for next year's rosters.
"They watch my team and pick the possible national team for next year," she said.
Cooler's volleyball career is beginning to come full circle. She was ranked among the top 25 freshmen in the country by PrepVolleyball.com just over a year ago but missed out on valuable time in the following months after undergoing shoulder surgery.
It was an unfortunate setback for an athlete playing well above the other girls her age.
"As an eighth-grader, she hit everything in sight," Stern said. "She didn't care. 'I'm going to hit the ball. I like to hit the ball.' ... In every grade she was in, she was always ahead of the other girls.
"She was aggressive and dedicated, literally, from day one."
The same couldn't be said for Roulston. Stern and the rest of the coaching staff had to press the hesitant athlete to be more dynamic around the net.
"Abby started out very bashful," Stern recalled of the soon-to-be senior. " ... She was very tentative. We kept saying, 'Abby, hit the ball, hit the ball.' She wasn't aggressive at all.
"Just in the last year ... she finally got competitive and picked her game up tremendously."
Now only a short time later, the two girls are preparing to embark on bigger challenges at the national level. The duo is hoping their performances help get them noticed by colleges.
That shouldn't pose a problem, though. Cooler is already drawing interest from Michigan, Kentucky and Connecticut, among other schools, her coach said.
"(The national team) is a really good measure of where you stand against your contemporaries," Stern said.
Cooler says her next goal is to qualify for the premier A1 team next time around.
"I have to step it up," she said. "I just have to keep going to the gym and pushing to make myself better."
An acceptance to the top-level team wouldn't be much of a surprise. But the incredulous Bobcat probably will double-check the roster regardless.