The Oklahoma volleyball team embarked on the program's first-ever European tour on Thursday, May 22. The Sooners are abroad until June 2 and will travel to the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Italy.
May 24 - Olympia Praha (Prague)
May 25 - Czech JNT (Prague)
May 27 - Slovenia JNT (Maribor)
May 28 - Nova KBM (Maribor)
May 31 - Italy JNT (Milan)
June 1 - Italy JNT (Milan)
Well, here it is…the last day of a 10-day long trip in Europe with my volleyball team. This trip has been nothing short of remarkable. From playing great competition on the court, to walking the streets with my team and laughing until tears fall, this experience is one that I’ll remember the rest of my life.
Travelling to different countries and crossing border has its own sense of true adventure. Not just the kind of adventure I’d feels as a little girl exploring the mountains, but when you’re constantly moving in and out of spaces and places that are all foreign, you start to embrace feeling like an alien, to some degree. This alien-type feeling can be great and also bad—depending on where it is that you are in that moment. For example; on this trip, getting yelled at in a completely different language by a woman at a bathroom stall, “zaplatit dřív, než půjedeš.” Translation: “pay before you go”. That instance would fall into the category of ‘not-so-great-alien-like feeling’. Smiling to say hello and getting a glare from a group of teenage Slovenian girls on the street would fall into that same category, but hey, who’s keeping count anyway?
Although there were a few of those types of experience, as any trip in a foreign county would have, none of them could compete or even amount to the number of beautiful things that I’ve had the privilege of being a part of here. Playing on a foreign court, saying “boom soon” in a huddle after we close sets against great teams, being surrounded by a rope attached to singing men in downtown Prague, boat rides in Bled, running in the rain to have dinner at a 500-year old restaurant in Vienna, riding bikes along the Adriatic and the cobblestone streets of Rovinj, watching the sunset from a dock in Venice and checking out shops and castles in Milan.
All of these moments and experiences hold a place very dear to my heart and I can’t help but realize how blessed we all are to have had an opportunity such as this one. All the different walks of life that people come from, the different languages, different faces and different stories; writing a short blog cannot do it all justice. It’s a sad attempt at capturing the life of it all. I’m very grateful and am so excited now for this season with my girls where we will take on teams, more experienced with the game and more prepared for anything “different” that might be thrown at us.
On and off the court, we’ve been able to learn, adjust and grow together in adversity, yet still appreciative of where we all come from. I believe we each did out absolute best to represent the University of Oklahoma as we “took on Europe”, but contrarily, I believe it was Europe that absolutely took us all away.
Wheels up. We’re coming home.
Day 11: Final Lap
Today was our day to explore Milan and all of Italy! I woke up early and went out with a group to Lake Como. It was beautiful! We ate pizza and shopped around the lake then took the tran back to the city square. We of course took time to shop around with my mom and some of the team and bought some clothes and gifts (and gelato for ourselves, of course) for our family and friends. After that, we went with the team to dinner and had some really good tiramisu. Then we took the train back to the hotel and called it a day.
The team had the day to explore the fashion capital, Milan…and most of the girls went exploring around the city, while others went to Lake Como.
It was awesome to see the bustle of the city. We had a team dinner to wrap up our amazing European tour. There is an Independence Day celebration in Milan tomorrow and I can’t help but think it’s also the celebration of something awesome with our OU team!
Day 10: Last Stop, Milan
After breakfast in Venice, we loaded up the bus and headed toward the fashion city of the world; Milan! We would play our last match of our tour at the Italian National Training Center against the Italian Junior National Team.
We got to the hotel in Milan, checked in and headed over to the training center for lunch. It was nice and before our match we watched some of the Division III Italian Men’s National Team members get ready to play a match.
We beat the JNT in four sets and left the center to head into the city and explore! Our main day to take in Mila is tomorrow, but we definitely got to see the start of the shopping experience in Milano! Ciao!!!
Day Nine: Quick Stop in Venice
Our day in Venice waited for us after a delicious breakfast in Rovinj and four-long hours on the road to our latest hotel. After checking in and changing, we took taxis across the bay to old Venice. I thought those were my last moments on earth! We came close to wrecking multiple times over the bridge which was very stressful.
Once we arrived safely in old Venice, we were free to explore! We broke into smaller groups so that we could get the full experience of this amazing city of water. Some girls took a gondola ride, while others opted to grab some lunch. After that we roamed through the mazes that are the Venetian streets. We bought lots of gifts for friends and family as well as a few trinkets for ourselves in the little shops throughout the city.
We ate dinner together as a team as we celebrated Eden’s 22nd birthday. After dinner it started to rain so we roamed around until we found our way back to the taxi drop off, where it started to downpour on all of us! We must bring rain to every place we visit, I guess. Overall, it was a great day exploring and learning about the city of Venezia! Tomorrow we are off to Milan four our last game.
Day Eight: Mexican Food in Croatia
Today was our second day in Rovinj. Most of us woke up around 9:00 to eat breakfast so that we could spend as much time outside as possible. This place is beautiful! During the day, the team split up and we all did our own thing. Some of the girls went on a bike ride exploring the city, some of use went to the beach and some went to the pool.
I decided to get some extra sleep, since we have had such a busy schedule. After breakfast with the team, I went right back to bed and didn’t wake up again until noon. Then I spent the rest of my day lying by the beach and by the pool. Sometimes we are so busy enjoying the new, exciting places we are in, that we forget that we are here to play volleyball.
For pre-game meal, we met at 4:00 and left the hotel at 7:00 to head to the gym. Tonight was our second game against the Croatia Junior National Team. It was very good competition for us and we won the match, even though they took us to four games. Santi must have been happy with the result because he didn’t make us do our daily ab workout! We were obviously thrilled about that and we ran to the locker room to get ready for dinner.
We walked around town for a bit until we came across a Mexican restaurant. We had been craving chips and salsa all day so we were excited to find a Mexican restaurant in Croatia! After we finished dinner, some girls went to get ice cream and some went back to the hotel. Even though, lying out by the beach all day is relaxing, the sun made us all super tired so we were ready to get some good rest.
Tomorrow we leave Croatia and head to Venice! We are having a blast and can’t wait to continue our exploration of Europe!
Match Notes: Oklahoma registered up a second straight win over Croatia JNT in four sets; 25-10, 23-25, 25-19, 25-23. Tara Dunn and Marion Hazelwood led the way offensively with 12 kills apiece. Hazelwood hit .428 with three blocks as the team totaled 12 blocks in the match. Taylor Migliazzo led the defense with 17 digs, while Julia Doyle and Kaitlyn Drawe were also in double figures at 16 and 11, respectively.
Day Seven: Swimming in the Adriatic
Today we had all morning to explore Bled. Some of us took a boat to the floating church, but I walked up a million stairs to the castles. This place is gorgeous and had an even better view from the top of the mountain.
The Slovenian team we played against told us about this delicious Bled cake we had to try, so just about everyone went and it was delicious.
We left at noon for a four-hour bus ride to Rovinj, Croatia and couldn’t get through the streets because our bus was too big. We finally got to the hotel and it was like a resort and in the back was a pool and the Adriatic Sea. We all ran out in our swimsuits and got in the water. It felt so good, even though it was a little cold.
Soon after, we had to go back to the hotel and get ready for the game against the Croatian Junior National Team. We beat them in four sets and went straight to the pizzeria following the match!
Match Notes: The Sooners picked up a four-set victory over Croatia JNT; 25-18, 25-22, 15-25, 25-19. Marion Hazelwood hit .321 with 13 kills and 2.5 blocks, while Micaela Spann added 12 kills, a .347 kill percentage and 2.5 blocks of her own. As a team, Oklahoma totaled nine blocks. Taylor Migliazzo and Kaitlyn Drawe collected 17 and 11 digs, respectively.
Day Six: Beautiful Bled
Hi everyone! Our long day started out with probably the best breakfast we have had all trip! There was tons of fruit to choose from and even *gasp* ice water!
After the superb breaking of our fast, we started on a long, six-or-so hour bus rise. Although, I can personally guarantee that the girls and parents snored away the first three hours of our ride, the last three were filled with long tunnels that so rudely interrupted my reading and breath-taking sights.
The mountains and large hills were dotted with the most quaint little cottages and villages. Jody, being the planner that she is, promptly decreed that we should, and will, make our own village and fill it with cottages from fairytales. Of course, I had to agree with her.
At the end of our awestruck-ride, we finally arrived in Bled, which happened to be just as quaint and magical as the other villages had been. After a rousing lunch to feed the many mouths on the bus, the girls and I sped off to see the lake and castle!
Bled Castle rests atop a 200-foot cliff that overlooks a glacial blue lake, in which rests a tiny island on which a church stands alone. We had but two short hours to explore the breath-taking scenery before our match, but most of us found time for a calm walk around the lake or a nice rest at the foot of the aqua waves.
The major exploring will be done tomorrow (which frankly I am unsure of if I am journaling about it or not) when we have a full morning to explore to our heart’s content.
Our match began around 6:00 pm local time and was against the Slovenia Junior National Team. This was to be our first match using actual regulation balls and in front of a crowd (I use that term loosely) and against a national team of any kind.
We played like we just got off a six-hour bus ride, which is to say not well. It ended in disappointment after splitting the first four sets and finally losing the fifth. It was a good match to learn from and so we shall.
After, we went to dinner with the girls on the Slovenian team and enjoyed a nice chat in somewhat fluent English and quite a bit of Google Translate, but we got through in the end. They struggled with our slang; we struggled with practice pronunciation and Madison and Taylor struggled opening the bathroom door.
Overall it was a long and adventurous day and I can’t wait to see the castle and church tomorrow! Perhaps it will still be me reporting in, but if not, adieu!
Match Notes: Slovenia JNT took the match in five sets; 16-25, 25-23, 18-25, 25-17, 9-15. Marion Hazelwood led the offense, while Taylor Migliazzo notched 25 digs on the back line.
Day Five: Vienna Waits for You
After spending an amazing three days in Prague, we loaded the bus and headed for Vienna. We hauled our luggage to the hotel and went exploring through this bustling city. It was awesome!
We saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Hofburg Palace and hung out in the Plaza. The night ended with a walk to the oldest restaurant in Vienna for dinner when the entire team got soaked due to a sudden downpour.
We are off in the morning as our trip continues on to Bled, Slovenia.
XOXO – Christina Stuehm
Day Four: Final Day in Prague
Today was all around relaxing and the whole team enjoyed the luxury of freedom to walk around the streets of Prague at our own pace. We started the day with a morning match, which we won in three games. After trading a couple t-shirts and taking a group picture with the Czech team, we headed back to the hotel for about thirty minutes until lunch time.
Around the corner from our hotel was a convenient, authentic and historical Czech restaurant that was built in 1499. After lunch, we were free to explore in groups. I split off with some of the girls and we immediately walked to the nearest Nike store. Ironic, yes, but Nike is great no matter what country you happen to be in.
We found a delicious gelato shop and headed to the square. After taking a couple pictures of the famous clock tower as well as the balcony where Adolf Hitler once spoke, we headed to the Charles Bridge. It couldn’t have been a more prefect day to enjoy the amazing 360 degree view of Prague, while listening to multiple street performers
We found some intricate metal work jewelry and purchased some of our favorites. After relaxing on the ledge for a while, we started to head back to the hotel. Along the way, we of course decided to get two more scoops of gelato to make the walk a little more bearable. With a dinner to finish off our last day in Prague, it’s already been an amazing three days.
- Marion Hazelwood
Match Notes: The Sooners bounced back for a 3-0 win over the Czech Academic National Team; 25-22, 26-24, 25-11. Tara Dunn and Micaela Spann led the OU attack with 11 and nine kills, respectively. Julia Doyle let the Sooners with 13 digs, while Taylor Migliazzo added 10.
Day Three: Match #1
With the group leaving Hotel Caesar at 9:30, we fought the jet-lag and woke up for breakfast. The breakfast was pretty standard for us; fruit, eggs, toast, cereal and coffee. We headed to our first match of the trip against a Czech professional team. Unfortunately, we lost, but it was fun mingling with the team at lunch after.
We were given a short break to head back to the hotel and change and then we started our tour of Prague, led by the third Kelly of our group, a former swimmer at the University of Georgia who now lives in Prague. On the tour, we walked up Love Hill, saw two cathedrals, made a wish on the Charles Bridge and ended the day with a Czech dinner.
Match Notes: Oklahoma dropped all four sets against the Czech Academic National Team; 14-25, 19-25, 24-26, 21-25. Libero Taylor Migliazzo led the way defensively with 19 digs, while middle blocker Micaela Spann totaled four kills and hit .500. The two teams will play again on Saturday.
Day Two: Dinner and a Jog
Once we finally got on our very delayed plane, we took off for the night. We received a dinner option of beef or pasta and then we hit the hay. After six hours of moving around, trying to find a comfy spot, and listening to crying babies, we finally landed at 12:52. Our tour guide met us at the airport and we drove to our hotel. Along the way, we saw the unique architecture and natural surroundings that typify the beautiful city of Prague.
The similarity of the road ways, compared to home, and the contrast of the more historical buildings made for fun and interesting viewing. We then arrived at Hotel Caesar Prague and wandered around the city before we headed to practice, followed by dinner.
Dinner was pizza and pasta before finishing the night off with a nice jog through the rain back to the hotel. Being exhausted from the travel and practice, we all soon passed out.
XOXO – Micaela Spann
Day One: Take-Off
No better way to start off a very long day of travelling than by making a 3:00 am Donut King run before we get on the bus to Dallas. It was a very long, bumpy ride and we had to stop for Santi to use the restroom. Besides that is was uneventful. Like always, we are over three hours early so we found an adorable little boy named Chase to occupy us. He was quite the ladies’ man and had perfect form on his squats. Then we boarded and this is where the fun begins.
Our flight was supposed to land in the JFK Airport, but we couldn’t land because of poor weather so we tried circling around and ended up in Newburgh, New York and waited for nearly an hour. We got to JFK and waited for our flight to Prague that was delayed…over and over again, but we are all just so antsy to get to Europe.
XOXO – Jody Larson