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VOLLEYBALL // Rogers waits at the net

St. Petersburg native Dexter Rogers has spent the past three years working to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic volleyball team. With barely two weeks left before the roster will be announced, he doesn't have an inkling.

"It's so weird," said Rogers, a 1986 Lakewood High graduate. "It's based on a lot of things. I'm hanging in there, but I just don't know."

Rogers, 27, hopes to become the first black man to compete for the U.S. Olympic volleyball team. The current 16-player roster will be cut to 12 on June 19.

An opposite hitter, the attacker who plays opposite the setter in the rotation, Rogers is one of three players fighting for one position on the final roster. Competition among the three players _ 6-foot-3 Rogers, 6-foot-6 Mike Lambert and 6-foot-5 Chris Underwood _ is tight.

"I've never been afraid of not making the team," said Rogers, who only recently recovered from shoulder surgery in November. "It's something I've always been focused on, but I try not to take it or myself too seriously.

"This is not the most important thing that will happen in my life. Regardless of what happens, my family and friends will still love me and there will be a lot of other things to accomplish in my life."

For Rogers to make the Olympic squad would be an unparalleled accomplishment.

Because high school boys do not compete in volleyball, Rogers _ who served as equipment manager for the Lakewood girls team _ attended Westmar College in Iowa on a basketball scholarship. He received a tryout for the U.S. national volleyball team on what he says was a fluke.

Stemming from that tryout, Rogers joined the USA Volleyball program in 1993 and played on the 1994 bronze-medal World Championship and 1995 silver-medal Pam American Games teams. In 1994, his work ethic, positive attitude and likable personality were recognized when he was presented the team's Players' Award.

He hopes he can make the Olympic team for all those same reasons. "I hope that has something to do with it," he said. "We play best when we're relaxed and it's my job every day in practice to give our captain, Bob Ctvrtlik, a hard time. It keeps everybody loose."