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    Keep Up with the 'Cats in Europe - Final Thoughts

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM The trip provided the Wildcats a great mix of volleyball and new cultures.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    The trip provided the Wildcats a great mix of volleyball and new cultures.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    June 24, 2013

    EUROPEAN TOUR CENTRAL

    ABOVE THE ATLANTIC OCEAN -- Northwestern Volleyball departed Rome early Sunday morning bound for Chicago by way of Zurich, Switzerland. With the European Tour in the rearview mirror, senior Stephanie Holthus relays her final thoughts from the adventure.

    Ciao to all from 34,000 feet in the air! Our morning began at 4:00 a.m. when most of America was up and celebrating a big Blackhawk victory Saturday night (or at least we're hoping they won! The lack of free Wi-Fi in Rome has left us all hanging on the outcome of game 5)! As I look at the television screen in front of me, I see the local time in Chicago reads 3:37 a.m. and I wonder how long it will take us all to readjust our sleep schedules back to Chicago time. Unfortunately, with summer school beginning tomorrow (Monday) for most of us we don't have much time to spare. Before we left Coaches Keylor and Kirstine at the hotel, who are flying to Orlando to recruit instead of coming home to Chicago, Keylor mentioned that we should all try to stay up until at least 8 or 9 p.m. to get our sleep schedules back on local time. If we succeed, emphasis on the IF, we will have gone a full 24 hours without sleep. Wish us luck!

    We are now on our last leg of the trip and we all cannot wait to get home! After our long day in Rome, which by the way was the perfect way to end the trip, we are all extremely tired and looking forward to getting back to America. This trip has been a whirlwind experience with a ton of travel, volleyball, and tourism. Simply put, we are all exhausted and ready to get home to our big beds, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and most of all, Chipotle! (Rumor has it some of the girls are heading straight there after we land.)

    Looking back through this past week, so much has happened in such little time. We have traveled through three different countries, played four matches against four different teams, and created many memories that will last a lifetime. While I'm sure you all have been keeping up with the daily blogs written by my teammates, there are also many important highlights // tid-bits // cultural differences that may have been left out. It is extremely hard to put everything we've experienced into one final blog, but I will try.

     

     

    Keylor LOVES gelato - No joke. Some - including me - may call it an obsession. When it became clear that he was obsessed we decided to track his gelato scoop total. We recruited other coaches to help us count, egged him on daily to get more, placed bets on what his final scoop total will be, and continually made "Keylor and gelato" jokes throughout the trip. For example, I joked that we may need to roll him onto the airplane as a result of all the gelato! When we were in Cinque Terre, Keylor had a total of fourteen scoops in one day! What was his final scoop total? 49!!!!!!!!!! Yes, that's right. Keylor had 49 scoops of gelato during the trip. Yesterday before we went back to the hotel, Dutchman, Paffen, and I asked him how many scoops he got on our final day and he replied three. We all responded, "No you need to get one more! Go get it now!" He responded, "Why one more?" Obviously we wanted him to get to fifty but danced around the question and got out of answering it. I'm not sure if he knew that we were counting or not, but after reading this he sure will! (Sorry Keylor, I just couldn't leave this out of the final recap!)

    We Missed the Pope! - Toward the end of our final day in Rome we ran into a few fellow Americans who said the Pope had made an appearance in the Vatican that day! We asked them what time and the location and realized that most of us missed seeing the Pope by a slim ten minutes. Everyone was extremely bummed, but Yewande's response made me laugh the most. Yewande - who is Muslim by the way - yelled, "JESUS we just missed the pope!" She may have been the most disappointed one out of all of us!

    Abbie Kraus sleeps outside - For two nights in Slovenia, Kraus slept outside on our balcony. The first night she slept on the ground and the second night she dragged her mattress outside where she enjoyed a good night's sleep under the stars. For the rest of the trip the very first thing she did when we got to our hotel room was check if there was a balcony. To her dismay, there were no more so had to "settle" for sleeping inside.

    Diet Coke? - Right after we landed in Europe Crippen set out to find some Diet Coke. She returned with "Coca-Cola Light" and the coaches warned her that it did not the same. The look on her face was priceless as she tried it out. The regular Coca-Cola lovers on the team lucked out, as regular Coke tasted the same in Europe as it does in the states.

    It's a Small World After All - When we made a quick pit-stop at a church in Florence on the way to Rome a young women came up to me and asked me to take a picture of her and her husband. Soon after we realized that her husband and I were not only from the same town, but attended the same high school as well. He graduated from Central High School in 2001 while I graduated in 2010. Chances of running into one person halfway around the world from your high school are slim. How about the chances of running into two? This morning while waiting for our second flight back to Chicago I ran into my old Algebra teacher. I couldn't believe it! As I heard my name I turned around and Mr. Palmiter, who I hadn't seen since graduation, was standing at the gate. Right now he is sitting about ten rows in front of me. What are the chances?

    Playing Against Olympians - When in Italy we had to privilege to stay in Italy's Volleyball Olympic Training Center and play against their U23 national team that was preparing to play in the Mediterranean Games. The U23 requirement for the games was loose, so there were some players who were 25 years of age. We were told right before we started that three of the girls were Olympians who played in the London Olympics and many of the others were projected to play in the next games. Immediately our excitement rose and every block, kill, ace, and dig was amplified. While we did lose the match, every point we earned was followed with cheers and excitement. Right after the match I sent a text to a friend that said, "We just played against Olympians.... sickest thing ever!" It was awesome to play against a team of that caliber and during the next Olympics we can say we played against some of the athletes competing for a gold medal.

    Conquering Fears - Both Paffen and Crip are afraid of heights, which placed added challenges for them on the high-ropes course. With the support of their teammates they completed both the activities. Our guide, who spoke in an extremely monotone, plugged up nose sort of way voice, while staring at the ground, said, "You can do it. It's all in your mind." While he wasn't exactly a supportive, cheery man, he did have a point. We were all safe while participating; therefore it was just a matter of conquering your fears. With the support of their teammates both Paffen and Crip completed the obstacles. There may have been some screams involved, but they both completed it and conquered there fears, and in the end that's all that matters.

    Elephants and Alligators - During our tour of the Colosseum our guide told us that the fighting that occurred in the arena was not just gladiator-on-gladiator, but that some exotic animals were also shipped in to partake in the games as well. Gladiators often found themselves in the ring fighting against elephants and alligators with nothing but a stick or a tiny sword. Additionally, it was believed that the blood from the victims cured a deadly disease (I cannot remember the name), so they would sweep up the blood and drink it in hopes of surviving.

    H20 - All of our hydration levels took a serious hit during the trip. While in American we can get tap water at any restaurant for free, or find a water fountain around every corner, water in Europe is not as available as it is at home. There was no such thing as tap water in restaurants, which meant that we all had to pay for our water. Needless to say, instead of spending our Euros on water we saved up for gelato. Priorities...

    "Ciao Bella" - The European men are extremely flirtatious! "Ciao bella," translated into "hello beautiful," was an extremely frequent phrase we heard throughout the trip. Yewande must be a charmer because she won over the hearts of hundreds of European men. Many complete strangers even asked her if she would marry them!

    While these points do not even begin to scrape the surface of all the events and memories, they represent a very small insight to the past week. For many of my teammates it was their first trip out of the country. For me, this trip was the third time I have traveled with a team to Europe. I found myself feeling nostalgic in a few of the cities I already visited, Venice in particular, thinking about all the fun times I had experienced with prior teams. At one point I looked up a little ally way in Venice and spotted a bridge where my club teammates and I stood and took a team picture during my junior year of high school. Memories of that team immediately flooded through my mind. The laughs, pictures, smiles, and memories may have been four years ago, but I remembered it like it was yesterday. That right there, is exactly how my teammates and I will look back on this trip. The areas we visited are not just places on a map, but a stamp of the past. Rome does not just represent a grand city with thousands of historical artifacts, but it represents a city where my teammates and I walked until we couldn't walk any longer, laughed until we cried, and learned first hand about the great Roman Empire.

    Towards the end of the trip my mother sent me a message that read, "Enjoy the rest of your amazing trip in Italy! Take lots of beautiful pictures and we will do something fun with them when you get home! You are so lucky ... Not many kids have the opportunity to experience these things (like me!), so never forget how blessed you are." I cannot think of a better way to sum up the trip than that final sentence. Most college students are not given the amazing opportunity to travel around the world with their best friends, play international ball, and experience and learn from different cultures.

    On that note, thank you to everyone who made this trip possible! Thank you to all the donors, the administration, and thank you to our coaches who had to put up with us nonstop for an entire week (eek!). Without any of you none of this would be possible.

    On one final note, with the completion of our trip we are technically free for the summer. However, with the upcoming season we all decided to stay on campus to continue lifting, playing, and become even better volleyball players and teammates. We all have big goals for the upcoming season and this trip just makes us that much more excited to get back in the gym to begin preparation. We know that together anything is possible and that together we can make history. So for now, arrevaduchi! Goodbye! Tschus! SEE YOU SOON AMERICA! And we'll see all you `Cat fans in August! GO `CATS! Meow.

    -Stephanie

    p.s. - We were literally just served gelato on the flight. Keylor is missing out! ☺

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