May 21, 2013, 5:19 PM EST
As the bus rolled out from the Joyce Center I couldn’t help but be a little bit nervous about the upcoming trip. At 26 years old it’s my first trip overseas. Heck except for Montreal, Toronto and Niagara Falls in Canada and Tijuana, Mexico (I’m not even sure that counts as international travel) I’ve never been out of the U.S. I’m not completely sure where the nerves are coming from but I do know I packed everything I should need based on the excessive (figuratively, not literally) weight of my suitcase. Just trying to decide what I can discard if I have to choose between souvenirs and articles of dirty clothing (Hope that wasn’t TMI).
The flight was uneventful at best. I slept a lot. I laughed at the tiny fork and knife combo at lunch in the London airport. Eating a meal with those two items is similar to how I would imagine hunting a dinosaur would be with a primitive crossbow.
Upon arriving in Prague the group took down a pretty spectacular salad, pasta and pizza meal while learning a dice game that I’m pretty sure is straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Just remember back to when the weird squid captain of the ship was sitting around playing dice with Orlando Bloom for their souls. If you haven’t seen it shame on you and put it on your Netflix immediately.
After dinner the group got a small taste of the city by walking over the Charles Bridge, which featured some incredible views of the city as well as dozens of statues that we will see during daylight in the coming days.
The last thing to touch on before looking at Tuesday involves how weird it is to go to sleep at 1 a.m. Prague time knowing it is only 6 p.m. back in South Bend. It’s even weirder to wake up at 7 a.m. Prague time knowing it’s 12 a.m. South Bend time, a time that is usually a pretty normal bedtime for this guy.
Tuesday was game day so obvious preparation for the Czech Republic Junior National Team (AKA Olymp Praha) is an extremely busy day of intense sightseeing, walking and eating two huge meals. Not quite like game days during the regular season. Just to put the term “intense” into context, Missy Conboy (Volleyball sport administrator and Senior Deputy Athletics Director) claimed 22,251 steps and 10.27 miles on her pedometer.
Prague or Praha is truly an amazing city. Just a day and a half in, the entire travel party is enamored with it. Lots of beautiful buildings, castles and statues are all around. America’s youth was put into perspective when our tour guide called a castle from the 16th century “pretty new.” Jamestown, which was the first successful English settlement established in North America in 1607, would probably disagree with the term “pretty new.”
While making our way from the hotel to the gym where the Irish would play the Czech Republic Junior National Team in an international friendly (not sure if that’s just a soccer term or not), I was interested to see what the facility would look like. The main part of the building looked older, but walking into the gym we found a quality facility with a new court and good lighting. Warm up was only about 35 minutes. One thing that was different from a typical match at Purcell was that the two teams hit and served at the same time. So instead of having five minutes on the court alone for hitting and serving like in America, the two teams traded hits, shagging the volleyballs of the opponent.
In the match the Irish showed no signs of exhaustion, winning in four sets, 25-20, 20-25, 25-14, 25-21. The young Czech team capitalized on some sloppy Irish play to keep the match close, but Notre Dame showed improvement as the match progressed to earn the win. In looking at some quick stats, Toni Alugbue had a team-high 13 kills and hit .427, while Jeni Houser had 12 kills and hit .588. Sammie Brown had nine kills and seven digs and newly minted libero Andrea McHugh led the team with 14 digs.
One area in particular where the Irish had the edge was in strength, as the attacks were tough for the opponent to handle at times as Jeni Houser, Toni Alugbue, Andie Olsen, Sammie Brown and co peppered shots all over the court.
The competition will ramp up again tomorrow as the Irish meet the Czech Republic Senior National Team, which I believe is a step below the Olympic team and is made up of players that will be of similar age to our side.
After the match the travel party enjoyed a truly Czech meal that included a Czech staple of meat, bread and gravy (man do they love their gravy over here). If curious, it’s the darker gravy for say mashed potatoes as opposed to the Southern-style white creamy gravy.
After a remarkable 12-plus hour day that began at 7 a.m. with a quick run, I can say for the first time that I’m adjusted to the time and am ready for bed at a normal Czech time-zone time.
Until I can find Internet again,
Prosim (meaning You’re welcome) … wait that’s rude … Na shledanou (Good-bye),
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