Jun 6, 2013, 2:49 PM EDT
Well I’m back from Europe and finally ok with the Eastern Time Zone again after days of waking up actually ready to accomplish things before 8 a.m. (hate it). Now it’s time for me to take a look back at a truly amazing trip with Notre Dame volleyball.
It’s hard to summarize an 11-day trip that featured 22 people, six cities, four countries, four tour guides and several modes of transportation into a couple of hundred words. I will try not to get cliché on you by saying it was a life-changing trip or anything like that. I had a blast and saw a lot of things that I thought I would never see in my life. So I’m pretty pleased.
From the volleyball side of things I watched the team improve from their first match to their last match. I saw them get closer, both on and off the court, communicate more and get better as they tried out different rotations and worked on all the volleyball basics. Despite a 2-4 record, the Irish swept the two Czech Republic teams, took members of the Slovenian National Team to five sets in two consecutive matches, holding leads in both matches, and took members of the Italian Junior National Team to four sets in two consecutive matches. All of the squad’s final four matches were against teams that were at least top-15 NCAA Division I quality, if not higher. Just to point out a critical detail – that opinion is not mine, but of the ND coaches, who are far better judges of talent than I am. Look for good things out of the ND volleyball team next season as the Irish open their first year in the ACC.
Now back to the trip … upon arrival back in the U.S. I had to play 20 (50) questions with several people that wanted to hear about the trip. Below are some of the questions and answers to help summarize the trip.
Favorite city: I had to break this down into two separate categories – big and small cities.
– Big: Prague, Czech Republic (Praha). I thought that besides being a very clean city, Prague offered an incredible blend of great views and beautiful architecture. So many of the buildings looked like castles, which made me feel like I was back in the 14th century (minus the Black Plague), and the views from the St. Charles Bridge and the mountain near our hotel were amazing.
– Small: Maribor, Slovenia and Lake Como, Italy (tie). I can’t really choose between these two. The views in both cities were amazing. We spent more time in Maribor so we got to experience more of the city, but Lake Como just overwhelms the eyes as you see a beautiful lake surrounded by big green mountains and rolling hills.
Favorite moment: Let’s be honest: I can’t choose just one. I would say it would be a collection of moments in Prague, Maribor, Milan and Lake Como where after either riding a lift, hiking a mountain or climbing a big set of stairs the group got to witness all the beauty that each city had to offer. Some were modern buildings, some were rolling hills and some were structures that have been around for 600 years. They were all amazing in their own way.
Favorite meal: Again, that is hard to say. Getting to try each country’s specialty was really neat. From the meats and starches in Prague and Maribor, to the pizza and pasta in Italy, it was all really good but something I don’t need any more of for quite a while. Thankfully, the 10 miles of walking a day helped offset the portion sizes fit for a small dinosaur that we consumed almost every meal.
Best Volleyball Environment: While all the matches were glorified scrimmages, and thus no fans, the Italian venue was pretty incredible. It was where many of Italy’s Olympians trained and I also saw tennis courts and a dining hall for meals and snacks. The court was located in what looked like a big airplane hangar and had seating for several hundred spectators at the minimum. The court looked new and was big enough to hold two courts easily.
Best Touristy Moment: It had to be Venice. The gondola rides were as advertised. Riding through the city’s canals and looking at the city’s architecture was a blast as was walking through their maze of a city looking in all the little shops and eating street pizza and gelato.
Best Non-Touristy Moment: I would say Maribor was really the only city that wouldn’t be considered a tourist hotspot, so hiking the mountain behind our hotel and doing the ropes course and alpine slide at the top of the mountain would have to be at the top of my list. The mountain offered a great view and was a fun alternative to sightseeing, which we did virtually every other day on the trip.
And that’s the trip in a little under 1,000 words … I hope you enjoyed reading the blog as much as I enjoyed writing it. There were a lot of late Maribor and Prague and Milan nights writing these so I often didn’t know if the text was appropriate or if I would sound like a big dope. Fortunately I only received one grammatical change from my mom, a teacher for over 30 years, and my grandma, a retired teacher, so I feel like I must have done alright … be sure to continue following ND volleyball on Facebook and Twitter as a video recap of the trip will come out in the coming days … until next time …
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