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    Keep Up with the 'Cats in Europe - Day Five

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM The Wildcats were invited to play in the Centro Pavesi Wednesday by the Italian National Team.
    The Wildcats were invited to play in the Centro Pavesi Wednesday by the Italian National Team.

    June 20, 2013

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    MILAN, Italy -- Northwestern played its final match of the European Tour Wednesday against its toughest competition. The Wildcats took on the Italian U23 National Team, one of the top-ranked squads in the world, before spending an evening shopping in Milan.

    Here is the complete recap of the match against the Italians.

    Today's blog enrty comes from junior Monica McGreal:


    Today was another action-packed episode in the series "NUVB Takes Europe". We woke up bright and early as always, for the first time in Italy to enjoy our favorite, a buffet breakfast. I was especially delighted as this time I spotted croissants and personal favorite, Nutella (I've been waiting the whole trip hoping Italy would be made of Nutella). After devouring the delicious goodies, we hopped in the vans for another road trip! We're becoming quite the road tripping crew--by this point I can't tell the difference between a fully loaded nine passenger van and my own bed.

    After a quick three hours, we awoke at the front of an inconspicuous building perched amongst the side streets of Milan (Italy). As we gathered our bags ready to move into our next temporary home, we were told that we were currently at the Italian volleyball Olympic Training Center (like real Olympians) and that we are the first college volleyball team ever to stay here. This woke us up better than a venti latte, and we all mustered up our best game faces as we walked through the doors. After settling in our rooms we got treated to a yummy lunch of bead, risotto, beef, and salad with some of the best tomatoes I've ever had. I also noticed the risotto was served al dente, which is a little firmer than the pasta served in America (something I always read on the side of the pasta boxes and knew was an "Italian thing"). I actually quite enjoyed it this way.

    We then had an hour to prepare to play the Italian National U23 Team. This team is best described as the training team for the Italian National Team. These girls are the best volleyball players in all of Italy, and Italy currently has the best national team in all of Europe. So basically we get the opportunity to play the best volleyball players under the age of 23 in all of Europe. As we finished warm-ups and huddled up for a pep talk, Keylor surprised us with even more exciting news: the Italian team pulled down some of their national players, two of which have played in previous Olympics and the oldest being a 30-year old professional (barely older than you mom).

    This team challenged us in ways we had never experienced before and we each logged a few noteworthy moments. For me, it was solo blocking their middle on a slide attack. Though we did not win the match, it was great competition and we fought all the way through. It was the best we have played all tour and was a great learning experience for our team!

    After the high of the match, we cooled down with some cold showers and were served a delicious pasta dinner. It may be no Chipotle, but I could get used to these above-average Italian meals. We then took a short 20 minutes train ride into the heart of Milan. Milan is not only the shopping capital of the world, it is also home to a gigantic basilica, the Duomo di Milani the second largest in the world.

    Upon arrival, we all realized we would need some money and decided to try our luck at the ATM. After a few people got Euros, the ATM "mysteriously" stopped working after Maggie got her money out. Needless to say, we didn't let her get away without poking a little (or a lot) of fun at her for breaking the ATM. We then decided it was about past time for our gelato fix, so we headed to the nearest gelateria (about 5 steps to our left). I got Nutella, coffee, and dark chocolate flavored and it was delicious as always. Dark chocolate is my favorite flavor; it has a great chocolate flavor and a consistency almost like brownie batter. After we quenched our gelato thirst, Abbie and I headed down the street towards the shopping area. With our 20 Euros in tow, we were ready for some great buys. OK, maybe Prada and Gucci are slightly out of our price range, but we still enjoyed walking around and stopping at random buildings to snap pictures. I was especially fascinated with the ornate architecture found on all the buildings. I tried to get Abbie to put her vocal talent to work and join some Italian street singers, but she couldn't quite pick up the lyrics--our Italian pretty much ranges from Ciao to Gratzie (hello and thank you). After a few hours of exploring, we met back up as a group and headed back to the training center to live our Olympic dream lives for a little longer and rejuvenate from the day's adventures. Tomorrow we head to Cinque Terre, which is sure to give us more to write home about!

    Hi mom and dad!
    >Monica McGreal)


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