Prep volleyball: Exchange student shines, fits right in with Winfield
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Winfield Coach Paul Chinuntdet learned he had another foreign exchange student joining the volleyball program, he wasn't too enthused.
That is until he met Carla Gunnewig.
Gunnewig, a 16-year-old sophomore from Germany, joined the Generals before the season, and Chinuntdet was more than impressed with the 6-foot-1 frame of his new player.
"I had heard that we had a foreign exchange student that was interested in playing volleyball," Chinuntdet said. "I've had a couple in the past that has come through. They turned out to be (smaller) and not very skilled."
Soon, Chinuntdet found out that Gunnewig had the game to go along with her size, and he couldn't be happier with the addition.
"We have never had one of this caliber come through," Chinuntdet said. "She is incredible. She is a sophomore and is probably the best player in the West Virginia. She is definitely Division I material and she could probably play at the top level."
Gunnewig is just as happy to be in the United States and at Winfield.
"It is amazing and I really like Winfield," she said. "I thought it would be very nice to come here and play volleyball. I would really like to come back and play college volleyball."
Gunnewig, who has to return to her own school in Germany after this semester, just wanted to chance to come to the U.S.
"I saw the program with my friends, and we decided to do it because we wanted to improve our English and see the American way of life," she said. "We couldn't choose any state. We just indicated what our hobbies were and I said I liked volleyball.
"I wasn't nervous because I was too excited. I had heard good things about the United States. I had an American history class and we discussed West Virginia. Some of my friends came to the United States and stayed longer than they originally wanted."
Gunnewig indicated the style of play and volleyball set-up is much different in Germany from the United States.
"We don't have school teams out in Germany," Gunnewig said. "We have club teams and we play year-round. School is incorporated with the club. This school (Winfield) was very hard at the beginning because it is longer than in Germany and then we practice afterward."
Chinuntdet was astonished at the level of play that Gunnewig came in with from her year-round program in Germany.
"Her level of experience and play with the program she was brought up with is so far accelerated over any program in this country," Chinuntdet said. "She is way ahead of any of the girls on my team or anyone around."
Chinuntdet indicated his players took a quick liking to Gunnewig and want to play their best for not only themselves but her as well.
"They have inspired been by Carla," Chinuntdet said. "They don't want to let her down. They know she is way better than what they could be. They push themselves harder just to support her, they want to be good, and follow in her footsteps."
Gunnewig is enjoying herself so much that she barely gets to speak with her family and doesn't miss being away from home.
"We don't have much time to talk but we Skype every Sunday," Gunnewig said. "I don't have very much time to even miss being back home. The situation here is too good to miss home. I'm very happy here and excited for my time left."
As is Chinuntdet and the rest of the Winfield team.
"It's been a real joy coaching her and watching her and how she inspires the other players," Chinuntdet said. "Our goals are to make a strong push to make it to states, and be successful at states.
"It's going to be really tough seeing her go. I'm trying to help her out and do what I can in regards to marketing her to the colleges. We have talked a little bit and I've talked to her host parents and parents at home. She wants to come play college volleyball. She's the complete package."