USF Volleyball 2016 European Tour: Player Blogs
May 26, 2016
By: Amy Van Sant
We grabbed breakfast to go at 7:00 a.m. before heading to the Milan International Airport to begin our long venture home. We gave our tour guide Giannis, a USF shirt to show our gratitude for such an amazing trip and said our goodbyes to him. After checking bags and going through security, we had a nine hour flight to JFK Airport.
After a four hour layover in New York, we boarded a two hour flight to take us home to Tampa. Although we landed at 10 p.m., it was feeling much more like 4 a.m.! We were exhausted, but happy to arrive home safely to get some much needed sleep!
To summarize the entire group's experience over these last 12 days, I conducted a short survey at the airport:
Top favorite cities:
Top favorite meals:
We spent the most money on:
2. food & drink
What we missed most about the US:
1. Water fountains
2. Free American toilets
T-3. Our own beds
What we'll miss the most about Europe:
1. The scenery
2. Food & drink
We cannot thank everyone enough who contributed to our unforgettable trip to Europe! We are beyond thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has allowed our team to grow both on and off the court. It is just what we needed to generate momentum going into the 2016 season! You do not want to miss us in action this fall, so we hope to see you at a game!
Thank you again and as always, GO BULLS!
May 25, 2016
By: Clara Payne
Woke up at 9 am this morning for breakfast - yogurt with honey and a cappuccino. The coffee is so good here! After breakfast, we left the hotel to catch the local train into town. Seeing the locals on the train talking to each other in Italian was intriguing to watch. Italian is such a romantic language - the words flow and make sentences appear effortless. I really enjoyed watching the people here converse.
Once we arrived in Milan, it was round two of sightseeing and shopping. My group had a goal of finding the perfect gifts for our loved ones back at home. The first shop we stopped in was called "Fugazzi" and it was a jewelry store that specialized in Murano glass, a type of glass art mosaic from Venice. We met the woman who owned the store and she has worked in that exact store for more than 75 years. Surprisingly, the store has only been open for about 100 years. The owner told us of how Italy has changed over the years and how she has seen the people/buildings grow rapidly. After we bought our jewelry, she called out to us "Ciao Bella!" which means "bye beautiful!".
We then strolled in the busy streets looking for the gelato shop we visited yesterday. It was just so good that we couldn't get enough!
The mantra for the day was "When in Milan..." so that's what we did. We ate so much gelato! I had cream hazelnut with salted caramel on a nutty chocolate cone and it was superb!
After the shopping and lunch, we came back to the hotel to get a nice nap and some relaxation before our big game. We played Club Italia and the tallest girl on their team was 6'7! Some of the girls on the team were professional volleyball players and they definitely looked the part. We were able to hang with them point by point and even held the lead for a bit. Overall, just being able to play with some girls who will play in the 2020 Olympics is enough to be proud of. Following the game we shook hands, said "Brava," and took a photo with Club Italia. They were so kind.
After the game, we all had a delicious team dinner with the best sourdough bread I've ever had! We also had steak with vegetables and ice cream!
Tomorrow, we leave for our flights back to the United States. It is a bittersweet moment for all of us. We may not realize it now, but this trip will be one for the books and may potentially bond us together forever as friends.
May 24, 2016
By: Alexus Heidelberg
Today was bright and sunny, a beautiful day to tour the city of Milan. At 10:00 a.m., we departed from Venice, leaving our relaxing hotel and spa stay. We arrived in Milan and checked into Centro Pavesi around 1:30 p.m. This hotel is really convenient because the gym is right next door. The pictures of the men's and women's Italian national teams are amazing. It would be great to meet them. In the rooms, there is a board shaped like a volleyball net to hang photos of their friends and family. It's a pretty neat training facility.
From the hotel, we took a train into downtown Milan to meet our tour guide. He showed us Duomo Milano, the third largest cathedral in the world. This church was built in the 1300s and the art work was very detailed and thought out. Inside, there were marble floors that were all hand laid.
Another cool thing about Milan is that the city hosts the watch party for the 2016 World Cup Finals called UEFA Champions League. They set up a huge screen for everyone in the city to view the football games. Americans call this sport soccer. It is very similar to the Super Bowl watched in America.
Of course, our next stop was to try out the best gelato places in Milan - Cioccolat Italinai; it was delicious! Just imagine the rich flavor of your favorite ice cream and the creamy smooth taste melting in your mouth on a hot day...YUM! It was special to have the cones filled with chocolate too.
Next, we went shopping and the stores were huge. This is not surprising because Italy is the fashion capital of the world!
After shopping, we met up as a group back at the cathedral to depart for dinner. We went to Caputo I Seqreti Del Grano and ate some tasty pasta and pizza. This restaurant is #1 on my list for the best pizza and pasta in town. After dinner, we got back on the train and headed to the hotel for a good night’s rest for another beautiful day in Milan.
May 23, 2016
By: Molly Burkhardt
Today, we took a break from all the sightseeing and walking around to have a nice spa day at our hotel.
We started the day by getting to sleep in and having breakfast at the hotel. After that, we enjoyed the various spa activities. Most of us went to the pool first, which was unlike any other pool I've ever been in. A hotel employee told us that the pool has naturally heated mineral water. They actually have to cool the water because when it comes in from the springs, the water is already boiling. He also told us about the buttons that are scattered around the pool. When we push them, it turns on the jets in the pool and there are bubbles everywhere!
After some time at the pool, a lot of us went to the sauna. In addition to the pool and sauna, several people got massages. They said the massages were awesome and much needed after so much traveling.
We then ate lunch in small groups at the restaurant in the hotel. I had a cheese pizza and it was so good!
Following lunch, we left the hotel at 3 p.m. to drive to Bassano where we had some free time to explore the town and shop. The town was so pretty and less crowded than Venice was yesterday. It was a much more calming setting.
After the sightseeing, we made our way to the gym where we played Bassano Del Gappa. They were a very good team and every player was tall. We beat them in four sets but they were very exciting games.
For dinner, we went to a nice pizzeria and ate with the players from the Bassano team. It was one of the coolest experiences we've had on the trip. Getting to eat and talk with girls our age from a different country and speak a different language was such an eye opening experience.
When we were on the bus getting ready to leave dinner, all of our new Italian friends were waving goodbye as they watched us pull away. The perfect ending to a great day!
I am super excited to do some shopping in Milan tomorrow!!
May 22, 2016
By: Dakota Hampton
Today, I woke up to a view of Bled Lake and the Bled Castle outside my hotel window. That was more picturesque than the day before (if that's even possible). Next, I went downstairs to have a full buffet breakfast including some of the infamous Italian meats and cheeses.
Then, we hopped on the bus to our next destination: Venice, Italy.
On the long road trip, our team played the game “heads up” to make the three hour ride go a lot faster. We arrived in a town right outside of Venice and took a short train ride into the inner city.
As soon as the train arrived, we were all so anxious to start exploring the city on the water! We started by heading towards the famous Rialto Bridge, which had great souvenir shops and cute, authentic restaurants.
After strolling to the bridge, we took a team picture and went off to roam the city! One thing that I noticed is that there were no cars in the city. Their means of transportation is by vaporetti boats. There are all different sizes.
Most of us tried the authentic Italian pasta and pizza. We then let our food settle on a relaxing gondola ride through the side streets of Venice. We even convinced our gondola captain to sing us a little Italian music to complete the mood.
Afterward, we all met up in the middle of San Marco Square for pictures and headed to dinner at a local Italian restaurant. We enjoyed some lasagna and fried calamari. Some also tried the roasted chicken for our team dinner.
After dinner, we had time to stop at a few shops to stock up on Italian leather and blown glass jewelry. Then we caught the last train out of the city.
On our way towards the train, we took some more pictures as the sun set in the city. While we were taking one particular picture on a bridge, an Italian waiter yelled down the channel "Hello Spice Girls!!!" Apparently we aren't the best at blending into the Italian crowd!
The day in Venice was like living in a painting. It was the experience of a lifetime!!!
May 21, 2016
By: Priscilla Ehieze
We started off the day as usual with a tasty breakfast at the hotel in Maribour. We checked out shortly following breakfast and headed off to Bled, Slovenia. Once we arrived, we had lunch – a three course meal with a soup, salad, chicken with rice entree, and a banana split desert. Then it was time for sightseeing!
I didn't really know what to expect heading to a different part of Slovenia. I really loved the atmosphere in Maribour and it was my favorite stop so far on the tour. But Wow - Bled blew me away!
First let me start by saying the weather could not have been any more perfect. We began our sightseeing by sailing on a plenta in Lake Bled to the beautiful Bled Island. We went to the Church of Assumption where we were able to ring the wishing bell. The story is, if you ring the bell three times and make a wish, it will come true. To round up our tour of the island, no surprise here, we had some more delicious gelato. We then got back on the plenta to head back inland.
As we were on the water, there were beautiful landscapes surrounding us. We were literally surrounded by the two alpine mountains of Austria and Italy, which means we were directly in between the two countries. You could see both countries so clearly from looking at the mountains.
Once we reached land, we had a lot of time to tour the city. There were a lot of things that could be done during this time. You could take a stroll around the lake, take a relaxing bike ride, shop at the markets, take a swim in the lake, climb/tour the castle, and our favorite, take some beautiful pictures for Instagram. In the castle, there was a viewing of jewels and rocks. You could even get something made from the blacksmith. We took full advantage of our day off.
We ended our day with a dinner on the lake, overlooking a beautiful view of the castle, mountains, and city. It just so happened there was a live band playing outside too. The music featured some traditional tunes from Slovenia and some famous hits from America. We were all singing along on our walk back home to the hotel.
Back at our hotel, we played a card game with the coaches. There was a lot of laughs and great team bonding. The atmosphere and overall vibe for today was very peaceful and I loved every moment of it. I'm loving every day here more and more with each passing day. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store.
May 20, 2016
By: Adyson Goodnight
We started off the day having a delicious breakfast in our hotel. The team then hopped on a bus and left for town around 9 in the morning. On our way, we stopped on a bridge overlooking all of Maribor above the Drava River. We walked to the center of town and saw the Plague Column that was built in 1680 and made completely of white marble. After that, we had a couple hours to explore and walk around. We stumbled upon some quaint little shops and spent a few euros on some local items. Lunchtime snuck up on us so fast that no one wanted to leave.
We then returned to the hotel for lunch, enjoying a colorful salad and soup. Then, for the main course, we had chicken drumsticks with a variety of vegetables and noodles. Everyone cleared their plate, it was amazing! The team then headed to their rooms for a quick nap to get some energy before our match tonight.
Then it was game time! At 3:30 p.m., we faced the Slovenian Junior National Team and we won in four sets. This team has amazing players and we were grateful to play them on our European Tour.
For dinner, we ate at the top of a mountain with the most breathtaking view; the sunlight was shining through the clouds like a spotlight on the houses below us. We had a magical soft drink with Elderflower and immediately loved it! We capped the night off with a nice meal and more gelato.
The Bulls are off to Bled in the morning!
May 19, 2016
By Elyse Panick
Today was our first day in Slovenia, and it was one for the books! We started our day out with a great breakfast and headed to practice for some serve and pass drills. We then traveled up the 3,500-foot Pohorje Mountain on the gondola. There, we ate lunch at this really cute restaurant. The view was amazing and we could see the entire city of Maribor. After lunch, we all went down the Alpine slide. Some of us were nervous while the others were excited to try it out. Amy Van Sant definitely won the race for the slowest one going down. It was fun to all be together, taking photos, laughing and enjoying the day.
We played against the junior national team that night and had the chance to talk to them afterwards. They were super cool and loved the gifts we exchanged before the match.
We ended the night with a nice traditional dinner which included baked beans, chicken kabob, steak, ribs, salad and cheese that was grilled. We all got gelato for dessert and played a team game, which included a lot of laughs. I can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us.
May 18, 2016
By Joli Holland
Today we had an early morning breakfast at 7:30 a.m., so we could leave the hotel around 8 a.m. for our drive to Vienna. Even though the drive from Prague to Vienna was five hours, it was very relaxing and the views were breathtaking. There were hills, forests, and abundant fields of different flowers and crops. About an hour from Vienna, we stopped at a truck stop for a break and some souvenirs. Many of us bought assorted chocolates that are very popular with the locals.
Once we reached the city, we were taken by our tour guides to see the National Library, cathedrals, and shopping centers. The architecture of all the buildings in Vienna have a grand appearance with various statues and art covering the buildings. There are also multiple beautiful public floral gardens for people to walk their dogs, relax, and take in the beauty of the city.
We then met up and took a two hour trip to Slovenia. To end the day, we checked into our hotel had a delicious team dinner.
To some this may seem like a very average day, but I actually found this experience to be very enlightening. As we were going through all the different gardens and cathedrals today, I realized that there's different histories and cultures that I never had a chance to experience and I got to experience them with my teammates and coaching staff. All and all, I believe this experience has made us all closer and see the world in a different way.
May 17, 2016
By Denise Belcher
Today we began our second day in Prague with a morning stroll to the John Lennon wall. The wall is pretty much a place where people can come and paint whatever they want on it.
After everyone was done taking pictures by the wall, we continued our walk towards the Charles Bridge. The view from the bridge was breathtaking. Along the bridge, there were all sorts of stands set up with art and jewelry. There were also people playing many varieties of music.
After our activities on the bridge, we then made our way to the old town square. From there, we were pretty much free to do a little shopping on our own. Some of the stores resembled American stores such as H&M and Forever 21. During our shopping time, a group of us found a really good pizza place to have for lunch! By the end of our shopping and lunch, we pretty much figured out how to actually use our koruna, the form of money in Prague.
After our eventful morning, we got ready to go to the gym to play some more volleyball. We got to take a team picture with Olymp Praha and even got them to throw up a "Go Bulls" sign! Playing against those girls was a really fun and a valuable experience for us.
Once we were back at the hotel and all clean, we walked right next door for a three-course dinner. We started out with a delicious soup and on to Schnitzel (breaded chicken) and potatoes. We were also treated to a yummy dessert with gelato and bananas!
Tomorrow we are off to Vienna Austria.
May 16, 2016
By Hannah Smith
Today we got to tour around Prague. We started by walking up Petrin Hill. At the top, there was a tower that was about a third of the size of the Eiffel Tower. The view from the top was AMAZING!
Next, we visited Prague Castle! The front gates were guarded by two titans who protected the building.
The Castle also had these guards who have to stand watch for an hour without moving. After
some playful games, we got one of them to wink at us!
Inside the complex was St. Vitus Cathedral. This was my favorite part of the day because I have taken some art history classes and I learned about this cathedral in the past. It was cool to see it in person!
After the castle we got lunch and went back to the hotel to rest for a short bit. We then got ready for our match at five against Olymp Praha, one of the oldest and most established clubs in the Czech Republic. It was a thrilling match that went to the fifth set. Even though it was disappointing to lose the final set 15-13, our team played very well considering our jet-lag, the rule changes and a very different ball. Our team showed a lot of fight and support for each other!
After our game we went to dinner at a cute restaurant, just a short walking distance from our hotel. We had bread with every course, and we got to try guláš. It was really tasty.
Sbohem and GO BULLS!
May 15, 2016
By Alex Mendoza
Four flights, three layovers, about two hours of sleep, and one day later, we have made it to PRAGUE!!! The first day of traveling felt much longer than 24 hours between the time difference and jet lag. Half of the team, including myself, has never been on a flight overseas or even a flight longer than 3-4 hours.
The eight-hour flight from Atlanta to Paris was definitely a new experience. It was my first time eating an airplane meal and using ear plugs. We had a four-hour layover in Paris, where most of us tasted some macaroons and sipped some lattes, beginning our sample of European foods. By our last two flights, the team was moving slowly and ready to get to the final destination, but WE MADE IT! Exhausted and worn down, we bussed to our hotel in Prague, getting our first sight of Europe!
At first, things looks pretty similar with a McDonald's and some gas stations. It hasn't hit us that we're actually in a new country.
The road signs were the first thing that hit me as they are in a completely foreign language.I lost all sense of direction. Then some train tracks appeared in the middle of the four-lane road between the opposite flows of traffic that made me even more unfamiliar. Next we started to see some of the beautifully detailed architecture of buildings, and the realization starts to set in - we are definitely not in Tampa anymore! It's been a long Day 1 and it's safe to say we're more than ready for some pizza, a bed to sleep in, and some good beauty rest to wake up without too much jet lag. Tomorrow is GAME DAY!!!
The USF volleyball program has reached the NCAA Tournament seven times and boasts seven conference championships. In 2016, the Bulls will return 11 players from last season including their top eight point scorers from a year ago. USF is guided by fourth year head coach Courtney Draper. Follow the volleyball team on social media (Twitter | Facebook | Instagram) and visit GoUSFBulls.com for the most up-to-date information.