Golden opportunities are few and far between.
The chance to accomplish something extremely special is one of the greatest gifts we can be given in our lives.
Annie Drews, a former volleyball standout at Purdue University, has taken advantage of nearly every opportunity in her life and on Friday, she learned that she was selected to play for U.S. Women's National Team at the 2019 Tokyo Women's Volleyball Qualification Tournament being held Aug. 2-4 in Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
The winner of the four-team round-robin tournament will automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The other teams that will be competing against the United States will be Argentina, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan.
"It's really exciting to be a part of this team,'' said Drews, who is the daughter of former Danville High basketball star Mike Drews. "We don't get the chance to play a lot in front of our home fans and family, and these matches are also going to be television in the United States. I see this as an opportunity to grow our sport and hopefully, we can qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.''
So, how did Annie Drews get into volleyball instead of basketball, like her father, who was a letterman at Ball State, and her brother Derek Drews, who played college basketball at Western Michigan.
"I started out with just some friends who play volleyball,'' she said. "Obviously, I come from a basketball family, but we have always been a sport-oriented family and volleyball just kind of happened for me.
"I'm thankful that it did and I haven't looked back.''
With good reason.
Drews was a first-team AVCA/Under Armour High School All-American at Penn High in Mishawauka, Ind. for the 2011-12 season. She went on to play at Purdue where she was the 25th player in school history to record 1,000 kills and Drews helped the Boilermakers to an Elite Eight run in 2013.
"I committed to Purdue as a junior in high school,'' Drews said. "I loved that it was in the Big Ten and close to home. My family and I also had a personal connection with the coaching staff, who knew my parents from Ball State.
"It just checked a lot of boxes for me.''
Just as her college career was ending, Drews got the opportunity to play professionally in Puerto Rico.
"Before we even landed in West Lafayette, after our loss in the NCAA Tournament, I had my first professional contract,'' Drews said. "I thought why not try it. That way I could say that I did it and I wouldn't regret passing it up. And living on an island didn't sound so bad, either.''
After two seasons in the Puerto Rico Superliga, Drews admitted she was thinking about being done with professional volleyball.
"In my last season, I got a call from the National Team about a tryout and things just blew up from there,'' Drews said. "That was never in my plans, but I'm glad that the opportunity arose and I took it. I also have some really supportive people who helped talk me into it.
"I wouldn't have it any other way right now.''
Drews believes that her faith and relationship with God has led her in this direction.
"My faith has been the biggest game changer/factor in my career, but more important, my life,'' she said. "I became a Christian in college and I truly believe that God has equipped me with opportunities and abilities to continue playing and learning in this sport.
"It has been like a calling. I feel that I've been led back to the sport and this path. I'm still unsure what the reason is, but I feel like I'm where I should be and I'm just really thankful.''
Earlier this summer, Drews was part of U.S. National Team that won the gold medal in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Drews was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament after scoring 33 points in the championship match win over Brazil in five sets (20-25, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 15-13).
"That was an incredible feeling,'' Drews said. "That tournament is just a grind. It's the top-16 teams in the world, playing over seven weeks and you are traveling all over the world.''
Drews only celebrated the honor and the title for a few days as she got back into the gym to prepare for the Olympic qualifier.
"There are probably 20 to 40 girls working out and trying to get one of those 14 spots,'' Drews said.
And if the United States qualifies for the Olympics will that guarantee her a spot?
"No, but I think I will have a good shot,'' Drews said. "I just need to keep working on certain things to get myself better along with gaining the trust of my teammates and my coaches.''
The matches for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament are being held at the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City, La. and tickets are available online at go.usav.org/wqualtix.
Additionally, the matches can also be seen on television. The USA match with Kazakhstan at 6 p.m. on Aug. 2 will be shown on NBC Sports Network. The match with Bulgaria at 5 p.m on Aug. 3 will be on the Olympic Channel and the Aug. 4 match with Argentina at 1 p.m. will be on NBC.
Also making the team with Drews will be former Illinois standouts Jordyn Poulter and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley.