The University of Georgia volleyball team is embarking on a European Tour that will see it compete in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Italy. Each day during the trip, the players will take time out of the schedule to keep fans up to date on what they are up to. Fans are also encouraged to follow head coach Lizzy Stemke on Twitter (@coachlstemke) for updates.
Day 11 - May 27: Our Final Day of the Trip...in Rome!
Head Coach Lizzy Stemke fills us in on the final day...
This is our last European blog for our trip as this is our last day of a fantastic journey. Today we set out for the Vatican City, the smallest nation in the world! Despite being the smallest nation in the world, the crowd of tourists was the largest we have seen all trip. We gained entrance as a group but quickly dispersed, as it was difficult to stay together as a group in tight narrow hallways of the extensive museum. Some chose to get earpiece devices, which explained the different things along the way in the museum. Others just meandered through the halls admiring the history along the walls. The intricate detail of each piece of art as well as the architecture was incredible. You could spend months trying to discover every corner. The Sistine Chapel is more amazing than any book could ever describe. This was my second time in this building and it has not lost its effect! The crowd of tourists was elbow to elbow and one could frequently hear a guard or two with a strict shout to make sure people were adhering to the rules of the pristine room. Once we made our way through the Sistine Chapel we took a quick peak at St. Peters Basilica. We have seen many churches and palaces along our trip but nothing to the extent of this particular church. The word "church" actually sounds like an understatement in itself. Once exiting to meet up with the group we discovered that a few people had missed the entrance to the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica. It was still fairly early in the day so we gave everyone some free time to continue to sightsee and also eat some lunch before heading back to the hotel for a bit of rest and packing before our last match of the trip.
The Finale.....our last match was against another B1 professional team in Italy. We took a metro to a bus station and then proceeded to pack a bus like sardines to get to our match. The bus ride could be a blog in itself! We made our way to our last match in Italy as well as our European conclusion. There was bit of confusion once we arrived but we soon got to the to begin our last match. To put the competition in perspective, B1 is the 3rd division in Italy but many teams in B1 of Italy could compete in the top 50 in the United States. We saw many big swings and some very impressive first ball contact (passing and defense). Each match was close and this team gave us great fight in each set. We lost the first in a close 22-25 battle. In matches two and three we came out victorious but more impressive than the win was the fashion in which we competed in the tight situations. Each set was a deuce set with some heat between the net. We had had a meeting the night before about mini goals along the way and we discussed having a clear picture of the way we choose to compete. This match was a great test for us in these new goals as we were able to put this team building into action immediately. Of course the win on top of it all was satisfying and we will return to the states with a bit more culture under our belts and battled tested as well!
We cannot even begin to thank all of those involved with making this team/program changing experience happen and we know we are a tougher and more disciplined unit returning to America. We are so appreciative of all that we have at The University of Georgia and we are looking forward to returning home.
Day 10 - May 26: Rome, Here We Come!
An update from Kaylee Kehoe
Entering Rome, everyone gasped at how we were easily circling around the immaculate structure, the Colosseum, on our large travel bus. Eager to start touring when we checked into our hotel, we all had to wait one more night to sightsee in Rome. Today our team woke up to eat breakfast that consisted of numerous pastries, yogurts, and delicious meats and cheeses. After breakfast our team ventured into the fast pace metro station to begin our full day of sightseeing in Roma. We started off at the Spanish Steps and then divided up into different groups so we all could see the main attractions in the city. Seeing the breathtaking structures such as the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and the ancient Roman Ruins, the education of Rome was not comparable to what we saw and experienced as a team later in the afternoon. After an awesome lunch in diverse spots around Rome, our team met at the Colosseum for a guided tour with Gigi! Having only seen the Colosseum and the Roman Ruins in movies, we all made remarks about how massive this historic structure seriously looks along with how intelligent the Romans were to create such a culturally influenced system. After experiencing this unique architecture as well as the other important structures in the city, our team is thrilled to have a second day of sightseeing in Vatican City and play our last game overseas!
Day Nine - May 25: We're Off to Florence!
Megan Spencer and Lauren Teknipp fill us in on what's happening in Florence...
Although the weather was subpar, Florence did not cease to amaze the Georgia volleyball crew! We spent the first few hours shopping the streets and alleys for leather goods and then spent the last half viewing the beautiful monuments Florence is known for. After trenching through the rain, we all met up at a local cafe to tour as a group through the famous church, Il Duomo. We learned a lot throughout our guided tour, such as how this church was used as a reference to build the world famous Cathedral in Rome. In close proximity to this church, we also saw the amazing statue of Donatello's "David" -well an exact copy. On a personal note, my favorite statue was one of the most famous Greek mythological tales, Persus beheading Medusa. Toward the end of our guided tour, the team took a group picture around another famous mythological character, Neptune. It's easy to overlook the history, amazing architecture, and art work, which Florence has to offer. After learning about each of these, we developed an appreciation of not only the material items such as Gucci and Prada but also the historical background of the Florentine culture. However, our time was short and the weather continuously drove us into the closest cafe with free wifi, the time we spent learning is time to be cherished.
Day Eight - May 24: Day Two in Pordenone with a Stop in Venice
Gaby Smiley talks about Pordenone and Venice...
Day two in Pordenone, Italy started off with some successful shopping. No better way to start today! We were given the choice to wake up around 9am to check out the center of Pordenone or to sleep in until 11. About half of the team woke up to go to the centro which was full of beautiful boutiques. Many of us came back to the hotel with several bags filled with gifts and clothing. At 11 the whole team met up in the lobby of the hotel to start our day trip to Venice! Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favor, as it was in the mid 50's and raining, but we all had our rain coats and umbrellas ready so that the weather didn't prevent us from seizing the day! We walked to the train station and jumped on a train to Venice. About an hour and a half later we arrived in Venice and were given maps and told to meet at San Marco square at 4:30 to tour as a team. Our guide, Sarah, told us "if you feel lost then that means you are exploring the city well ", so the adventure began. We spent the day exploring "the underwater city" by shopping and eating delicious food! Shops and restaurants were found on every street, even the small alleys. My favorite part of the day had to be the gondola ride that I took with some of my teammates! Our gondolier sang in his beautiful voice and showed us around the city while we sat back and enjoyed the view. At 4:30, the entire team met up in San Marcos to go see an art museum and a cathedral. Afterwards, we all went to dinner together to enjoy some delicious pasta. After dinner, we did a little more exploring of the city then met back up at the train station at 8:30 pm to catch the train back to Pordenone. Personally, Venice has definitely been my favorite city in Europe. It was unbelievable to see how this city was truly an underwater city. There were no cars any where, it was all water taxis and boats that were used for transportation. This entire trip throughout Europe has been indescribable. I am so thankful and happy to be able to have this opportunity. Florence is up next. Goodnight from Pordenone!
Day Seven - May 23: Goodbye Maribor, Hello Italy!
Video Blog from Kaylee Kehoe
Allison Summers checks in...
Woke up in Maribor, Slovenia, had lunch in Trieste, Italy, and ended up in Pordenone, Italy. It has been a long day of traveling for the Bulldogs today! We said goodbye to Maribor this morning and rode on the bus to Trieste for a couple of hours for a quick day trip. Trieste is known for being a large seaport for Italy, so seeing the beautiful water of Europe was a nice change of scenery. After lunch and wandering around the city, we took a quick look at one of the castles in Trieste, another great view of the city. We got back on the bus and took an hour and a half ride to Pordenone. After checking into our hotel, we quickly prepared for our first game in Italy. We played the Pordenone B1 team in one of their gyms about fifteen minutes away from the hotel. It was an exciting match for us as we took the victory against our opponent in five games. Following the match, we headed to dinner by the hotel at an Italian restaurant. It was a good recovery meal filled with lasagna, beef, and veal; definitely an experience for some of our players. After a long day of traveling and playing, we are excited to tour the beautiful city of Venice tomorrow! Good night from Italy!
Day Six - May 22: Last Day in Maribor and Meeting Up with Old Friends
Brittany Northcutt talks about her time in Maribor...
The city of Maribor has been an awesome experience! We got an opportunity to go into the city and observe the daily lives of natives of this amazing place. Shopping was a huge success. Our whole team hit up the local stores as well as the HUGE H&M. After shopping and sightseeing we came back to the hotel to eat a great lunch and prepare to play the Slovenian National team, who came to play us in Athens last season. We played a really tough match and came up slightly short. The experience we have received through these last few games has been impeccable. It is truly an experience of a lifetime! For our dinner we took a trip to a local vineyard, since Maribor is famous for the world's oldest and largest vine. Our dinner was served on top of a mountain, which was incredible. This has been my favorite day so far! I'm so excited to see what is in store for the remainder of the trip!!
Day Five - May 21: More Time in Maribor
Maggie Baumert checks in...
Hello from the beautiful city of Maribor! This is definitely a break from the city! We entered the Pahorje Mountain Range as our hotel sits on the mountainside and took a short walk to a gondola lift this morning where we were lifted up the mountain. We hopped off and could see the view of the city from the top of the mountain; what a beautiful sight! Today we were all challenged to "step out of our comfort zones," which has been a common theme for our trip in itself, but today was extra special. Each and every one of us climbed up a 25 foot pole, and once we made it to the the top, had to gain our balance and stand on top of the pole. Let me tell you, it was pretty scary, but every one of us completed the task. Second, we got harnessed in, and were pulled up to the top of a giant swing, or rip cord if you will. Once you reached the top, you pulled the string and were released down to swing back and forth on top of the mountain. Very pretty scene from way up there, some of us even swung upside-down. Once the thrill was over, we were given the chance to head back down the mountain on what was called the Alpine Slide. We all got buckled into a small yellow car, and were released down a winding track to the bottom of the mountain. Some went pretty quick, and others slow, but the ride down was fun! Check out the photo gallery because today's events are better described in pictures! We then had a match against the Israeli National Team who challenged us, but also made us better. Dinner was on top of the mountain, very peaceful, lots of time for bonding. All in all, Maribor is teaching us the natural beauty of Europe, outside of the city. Definitely, an amazing stop on our tour!
Day Four - May 20: On to Vienna and Maribor
After lunch and touring the downtown, we then went as a team to tour the Schönbrunn Palace. It was home to Austrian Royalty. The home itself had 1,441 rooms, not to mention the garden in the back which had its very own zoo. Not too shabby for simply a summer home! After the tour we traveled a few more hours to arrive in Maribor. The hotel is on the base of a mountain in the countryside and has spectacular views. We checked in and ate dinner and met as a team to recap on our trip so far. While we are all very tired, we are super excited for our time here and to see a whole new level of competition we have never seen! Hope all is well... God Bless!
Day Three - May 19: Another Day in Prague
Our last day in Prague - Journal entry by Desiree McCray
On our last day in Prague we saw the Lennon Wall and we walked on the Charles Bridge. So much history is behind this amazing place. Then after walking across the bridge we walked around Old Town Square. There were so many shops and venders to visit; you would need a whole day to visit them! We ended up eating at the Hard Rock Café. Then we played the Czech Youth National team again and won 4-0! Afterwards we had a traditional Czech dinner, buffet style, with the Czech Youth National team. We traded contact information to connect on Facebook. Being here has shown me there is more to this world than just within the United States. I'm glad we had the opportunity to come to such a beautiful place like Prague. I would like to personally thank Kelly McNichols a Georgia Bulldog Swimming and Diving Alumni for taking the time out of her schedule to show us around the city where she lives currently. First city down seven more to go!
Day Two - May 18: First Day in Prague
Prague!!!! A journal entry from Stacey Smith...
Today was actually our first day to explore Prague. We began with a European breakfast at our hotel, the Hotel Roma. The breakfast included eggs, sausage, prosciutto, warm slices of rich cheese, yogurt, kiwis, tangerines, apples and a variety of croissants and danishes. Our journey began by climbing Petrin Hill to Petrin Tower, which provides a beautiful 360 degree view of the city of Prague. Next, we walked to Old Town to visit Prague Castle, the world's largest 18-acre ancient castle, surrounded by Czech guards at every entrance. Regardless of what people do, these guards are not supposed to show any emotions. Our team had fun taking pictures with the guards while attempting to make them laugh. Inside the castle walls, we visited St. Vitus Cathedral, the largest church in the Czech Republic. The entire team ventured into the tallest tower of the church and climbed the skinny spiral staircase 283 steps to the top. The 97-meter high view of Prague was well worth the steep climb. After our tour of Old Town, we were sent off independently in groups to find lunch. Trying to figure out the Koruna currency was a challenge. One US dollar is worth over 20 Korunas, which means an average lunch costs 200 Korunas. After re-fueling and re-grouping, we played our first European match against the Czech Youth National Team. The Bulldogs won all of the sets, and we celebrated at a Czech pizzeria. Pizza is a favorite for us, no matter what country we're in. Today was a successful and fulfilling day full of Prague history and our first victory!
Day One - May 17: The Journey Begins
Kaylee Kehoe checks in from the road...
For the first time our program traveled across the pond to Europe. Our trip started in Atlanta and from there we flew to Frankfort, Germany then to Prague. Those long plane rides were not the easiest, but a cool challenge to start off our trip! As a team, we had to quickly adjust both our sleeping and eating schedules in order to adapt to the European lifestyle. After landing, we dispersed for our first hour in downtown Prague to find lunch. After venturing off into the little shops and restaurants our team took a tram to the practice facility where we loosened up our fatigued bodies and had a great practice! Following practice we went to a Czech Republic restaurant where we devoured a traditional Czech Republic meal! Looking forward to more adventures ahead after a good nights rest!