The BYU Women's Volleyball team recently returned from traveling through Europe on its spring tour. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The BYU women's volleyball team recently returned from a 15-day European Spring Tour, the first such foreign trip since 1999.
The Cougars traveled through five European countries, including Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany, while playing 10 matches against national, professional and semi-professional teams. After dropping two in Italy as the players adjusted to the time difference and the speed of European play, the Cougars went 6-2 the rest of the trip, defeating the Austrian and Slovenian national teams and splitting with the Finnish national team.
"Our goal was to get experience for all of the players on our team and to win," said BYU head coach Karen Lamb. "For the most part we were able to do that. I saw some very positive things from everyone. We have some really talented players. The experience we had enabled them to be their best while competing against tough teams. After we adjusted to the level of play, the speed of the ball and the time difference, we started to really improve our play in every aspect. It was a great experience for us."
Below is a selection of journal entires from various players written throughout the trip.
We were all living on just a couple hours of sleep after a long day of traveling, but we were excited to be in Rome. We got dropped off at the Piazza Del Popolo and saw the Spanish Stairs and the Trevi Fountain. We also had the first of many tastes of gelato; it is so good! Next, we ran by the Pantheon, which is huge. It was amazing. We all ran back to the bus and had a short practice. It wasn't the prettiest since we were all so tired. Then we went back and showered and went to dinner. Before returning to our rooms and crashing for the night, we got some more gelato . . . yum!! -- Lindsy Hartsock, So. Middle Blocker
We woke up early this morning to go to Vatican City. We got there and discovered that the Pope was speaking at 10:30. We were pretty excited. From there, everyone split up into groups. We spent the day enjoying the sites, including the Sistine Chapel, the Collosseum, the Forum, the Wedding Cake, and the Pope at St. Peter's Square. Later that day we played our first match against Club Roma. We played four games and won one of them. It was a hard match for us because we were still very tired and trying to adjust to Italy. After the match, we showered and got dropped off for more sightseeing before we turned in for the nght. Of course, we ended the night with gelato and had a great second day in Rome! -- Kim Wilson, Jr. Outside Hitter
This was our last day in Rome. A few of the girls woke up at 6 a.m. and went on a nice morning jog to the Collosseum. I heard it was beautiful. The rest of us woke up about an hour later and split up to do our own things. Most of us visited St. Peter's Basillica. This was a breathtaking experience; what a beautiful place. Michelangelo's most famous sculpture, La Pieta, is there. It is a sculpture of Mary holding the crucified Christ on her lap. It was an amazing sight to see and was a spiritual experience for all who saw it. It is amazing how much pictures and statues of Christ can bring the spirit. We left Rome at 10:30 for a four-hour bus ride to Communanza, Italy. We all slept the whole way. Once we got there, we got ready for our match. We played a second-division Italian team. We lost in four -- it was not one of our best performances. We are still adjusting and getting a feel for volleyball in Europe. We got out of the gym around 10:00 and went to a little ristorante by our hotel for dinner. We were served lots of different kinds of pizza, which we enjoyed. Then it was off to bed. -- Erica Lott, Fr. Middle Blocker
This morning, we drove about an hour for a day at the beach along the Adriatic Sea. We first went to a swap meet then walked to the beach where there was a volleyball net set up. As if we don't get enough volleyball, we spent about an hour playing doubles on the beach. This was followed by lunch at a small restaurant with more pasta. Then we headed back and had practice in Communanza. While we were playing, a group of Italian kids came in and watched us. We got to meet them after practice and take pictures with them and give them BYU volleyball stickers. We finally got to shower and explore the small town before having an authentic Italian dinner prepared especially for us by Pepe, the hotel manager. We ate lamb, and we ate ALL of it . . . heart, lungs and liver included. Quite an experience! This, of course, was followed by more gelato and bed before our six-hour bus ride to Venice the next morning. -- Catherine Parker, Fr. Middle Blocker
We were scheduled to leave at 8 a.m. so we could spend the evening in Venice, but after loading the bus, we found out that it was broken down, so we got off and shopped in town for our "May Day" until 10 a.m. when another bus arrived to take us to Venice. The bus ride was long, but most of us caught up on our sleep. We arrived in Venice around 5:30 and headed into the city as soon as we got settled in our rooms. Most of the shops were closing up by the time we got there, but the Venice sunset was incredible. We split up and enjoyed walking around the unique city with the water-filled streets and quaint little apartment buildings. We all met up to drive back home at about 10 p.m. and went to bed to get ready for our full day in Venice. Venice is so romantic; Ben (Hartsock) bought me a beautiful long-stem rose off the street for me to carry around! -- Lindsy Hartsock, So. Middle Blocker
Today was the Sabbath and fast Sunday. We left for Church at 8:30 and met in a beautiful building. We arrived and met the missionaries; I think they were happy to see us. We had Relief Society/Priesthood meeting first. We all filed in and sat down, waiting for the meeting to begin. The Italian women were surprised when they walked in and saw three rows of American girls. One of the women's exact words when she walked in were "Mama mia." We couldn't understand what they were saying, but one of the sister missionaries translated the lesson for us. We talked about faith. They really tried hard to make us feel welcome and understand what was going on. We had our Sunday School lesson taught by an Italian sister who had just recently returned from serving a mission in California, so she spoke English. The lesson was on prayer, and we really felt the spirit as we shared different experiences with each other. Sacrament meeting was amazing. Mel (Melanie Togo) started us off by playing beautiful prelude music. We had earpieces so we could hear the missionary translating what was being said. Both the Italians and our group took turns bearing their testimonies. The spirit was very strong and we were all touched. We all learned that the Church is true and the spirit speaks the same language no matter where you are. We mingled with the members and took pictures with the missionaries after Church was over. It was a great experience for us. After Church we went to the city for lunch and sightseeing. Most of us went on gondola rides. That's about it for now -- we will write more as soon as we can. Ciao. -- Kim Wilson, Jr. Outside Hitter
Day 11: Today we are in Brno, Czech Republic, which is a cute little European town, but it doesn't even compare to the other cities we have been in. They say that we came to this town for the volleyball, which is believable. We ate our meals at the hotel and they were very good. One night we even had chicken, which was a welcome change from pasta and pizza! A few of us took the chance to go into the city and walk around a little bit, but the trip was short because it is a smaller, less touristy town. We won our match against the Austrian national team. -- Lindsy Hartsock, So. Middle Blocker
Day 12: We are still here in Brno to play two more matches tonight. During the day we had the chance to visit a Crypt that is in the city. It was interesting, but disturbing at the same time. It is amazing that after all those years those people are preserved like that! Some of them had fingernails still attached, and others still were wearing their clothing including boots. One of the ladies was thought to be buried alive because her body was cramped. That got to me a little bit. I guess in those days they didn't wait a few days to make sure they were dead ... so gross! After leaving there, some of the girls went up to look at another Catholic church (they are everywhere and we saw a lot of them). We went back to the hotel and got some rest before our matches that night. We beat the Slovenian national team in 3 games and split in 4 with the Finish national team, but we consider it a win because we beat them in points. Overall the team went 6-2, which is good! We had church in Prague the next morning so we left late after our matches to travel to Prague.
-- Lindsy Hartsock, So. Middle Blocker
Day 13: HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!! Church was fantastic again. The experience of
seeing all of the other members across the world and getting the chance to interact with them is so amazing! We even ran into more missionaries, and one of them is the Track coach's son. We had a great translator for Sacrament and Relief Society, but we were fortunate enough to have an English Sunday School again. After church we went out to explore the incredible city of Prague. We ate a traditional Czech meal at a cute little restaurant, which was beef and dumplings I think. The first stop was a beautiful castle with a guard out front. They are those guards that almost don't look real because they don't move at all. But Mandi Kiholm got one of the guards to smile, although he tried really hard not to, by posing for a picture with her lips an inch or so away from his cheek (I think he liked it :) We hiked up 300 stairs to the top of the castle to see a gorgeous view of the city, and we even saw the US Embassy from up there. We got to see the famous bridge that is in the "Mission Impossible" movie, and looked around at all of the neat stuff in town. We saw buildings that looked like castles out of a fairy tale. -- Lindsy Hartsock, So. Middle Blocker
Day 14: We got to spend the morning in Prague again, shopping in all of the beautiful crystal shops and just walking around the city. Mandi and Mel (Togo) found out that they make you pay to use the bathroom and they graciously provide two squares of toilet paper, so that was pretty funny. For lunch we went to a traditional Czech pub and got to sample all sorts of Czech dishes until we couldn't eat anymore. I think that the crepes filled with chocolate ice cream for dessert were devoured the fastest...we were all a bunch of vultures around a couple of plates. I bet it looked pretty funny! The other parts of the meal were good too, but I think that most of us were ready to get back to our American food. After lunch we loaded back on the bus and departed for our 6-hour bus ride to Munich. Late that night when we got to Munich we late our last European dinner at McDonald's, yum! -- Lindsy Hartsock, So. Middle Blocker
Day 15: Everyone was anxious to get back to family and loved ones as we departed for home. We flew into Atlanta, and then on to Salt Lake. It was a long day of traveling to get back to missed loved ones, but an incredible couple of weeks. We just all wanted to sincerely thank everyone for their support of our team. We all had life-changing experiences in Europe and a once-in-a-lifetime chance that will not be forgotten. As a team we matured and all grew closer together forming a strong bond. We are all very excited about next season. Thanks again and everybody have a great summer ... BYU women's volleyball! -- Lindsy Hartsock, So. Middle Blocker