The WVU Sports Communications department staff has researched Anna Panagiotakopoulos
’ last name and determined that her 17-letter surname is the longest in school history, including hyphenated names.
Well, pretty soon, “Anna P”, as she’s conveniently known by her teammates, could possess one of the longest biographies in Mountaineer volleyball history. That’s because the sophomore Libero was recently invited to play for the USA Junior National Team in the ninth annual European Global Challenge in Pula, Croatia, July 14-19.
Anna is the first Mountaineer athlete to represent Mountaineer volleyball in any type of international competition in the 40-year history of the program.
Panagiotakopoulos (pronounced Pana-yota-copa-lus), from Phoenix, Ariz., was one of 275 athletes from around the country who participated in the national team tryouts last February in Aurora, Colorado (WVU teammate Brittany Sample
also took part in the team tryouts).
From that pool of players, two teams of 12 were picked and Anna was slotted for the second group that will be led by Central Florida coach Todd Dagenais. Anna’s team will play in Croatia while the first group will participate in a tournament in the Czech Republic later this summer.
“It’s a pretty high level of play and from that they placed them on different teams and different programs,” said Kramer.
Panagiotakopoulos will miss the first couple weeks of team training camp in August, but Kramer, who coached a USA junior team to a gold medal in this tournament back in 2008, says the benefits of her playing international competition far outweighs missing a few weeks of preseason practice.
“The rest of the team is going to be here training and we said, ‘Look, this is a great opportunity for you,’” Kramer explained. “The biggest thing about the summer that is tough for us is they can be here and work with our strength coach, and they will get in the gym and do open gym, but they are just working against each other. (Anna) is going to be playing in some really high-level international competition. There is really no substitute for that.”
Kramer first found out about Panagiotakopoulos through the USAV development program, and the WVU coach made it clear to Anna that she would help in any way she could to keep her involved with the program during her collegiate career.
“That’s an opportunity we need to make available to them,” said Kramer, noting that she wants to grow West Virginia’s program to the point where multiple players are being considered for international-level teams in the years to come.
The USA junior team will begin training in July in Italy for the competition later that month in Croatia. The Mountaineers begin preseason practice in the beginning of August in preparation for their season opener against Eastern Illinois in Toledo, Ohio on Aug. 30. Kramer says Panagiotakopoulos should have about 10 days with the team before the opener.