My 4th World Cup by Ryan Millar
by Brynn Murphy on November 8, 2011
This month has been about gearing up and getting ready to begin the qualification process for the upcoming Olympic Games. That will begin on November 20th in Japan at the World Cup. The top 3 teams out of the 12 participating will qualify. Personally this will be my 4th World Cup with Team USA, the previous 3 we have finished in 4th place. We have finished one spot away from qualifying each time. I am definitely looking forward to breaking that streak this time. We had our first practice today and it was great to get back into the gym after being in Russia. We tried to work out the kinks of long travel and recently played matches with all the many club teams we are playing for. We are trying to get everyone on the same page so we can hit the ground running when we arrive in Japan. The qualification process is not easy by any means. Like I already stated, trying to qualify at the World Cup is tough enough. If that doesn’t happen, you must win your zone qualifier which will be held in May. If you do not win your zone qualifier, you are put into random pools of the remaining teams trying to qualify and you must win that to qualify. We have three chances to get to London. I look forward to making that process as short as possible. Wish us luck! Go Team USA
World Cup by Alisha Glass
by Brynn Murphy on November 2, 2011
Greetings all! The team is back in Japan and getting ready for World Cup, the first attempt at Olympic qualification. We came to Japan a little bit early in order to acclimate ourselves with time change, climate change, etc. We trained and competed hard against each other in order to prepare for the tough schedule ahead. This will be our last venture together as a team before we head to our professional teams. We first stayed in a beautiful city called Otsu. Our hotel overlooks the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. Although we prepared ourselves for a colder climate than Southern California, we found this place to be sunny and beautiful for the time we were there.
Our next destination is Nagano, Japan. It’s supposed to be a little colder than the last place. It’s also a 5+ hour drive from the last city we were in. The bus was pretty quiet, everyone was either tuned into their ipods, watching a movie on their laptop, or reading. It was my goal of the trip to finish my book. I was reading, “Long Walk To Freedom”, by Nelson Mandela. It’s a wonderfully inspiring book that I recommend to all. It also had taken me quite a long time to read, so it was nice to accomplish my goal.
It’s November 2nd, and we play on the fourth against Brazil. It’s going to be a tough start to play such a strong team right off the bat, and we also face Serbia and Korea, so there won’t be much of a let up. It is World Cup, there isn’t really such a thing as a weak team at this point! Our practices have been really competitive and we’re playing high level volleyball on a consistent basis. I see no reason for that not to continue throughout this tournament.
Keep us in your thoughts as we represent our country and we work to secure a trip to London in 2012. We’ll take all the support we can get! Thanks!
Luke Donald Wins the PGA of America Player Of The Year Award And The Vardon Trophy
by Iver Maple on November 1, 2011
Coming off his recent victory at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, Mizuno Brand Ambassador Luke Donald’s remarkable year continues as he has received the 2011 PGA of America Player of the Year Award and the Vardon Trophy.
Donald becomes the second native of England to win the PGA of America Player of the Year award, joining Nick Faldo (1990); and he is the second Briton to capture the Vardon Trophy, first presented to “Lighthorse” Harry Cooper in 1937.
The PGA Player of the Year, first presented in 1948, and the Vardon Trophy, which originated in 1937, are The PGA of America’s premier season-ending awards for excellence by a PGA Tour professional.
In dominating the Vardon Trophy race, Donald registered 73 complete rounds with an average of 68.86 to garner the award that is presented to the player with the lowest adjusted season scoring average. Runner-up Webb Simpson averaged 69.25 based upon 98 rounds, and Steve Stricker was third with 69.36 after 70 rounds.
The PGA of America has honored the game’s best players with The PGA Player of the Year Award since 1948. The award is presented to the top touring professional based on a point system for tournament wins, official money standings, and scoring averages. The PGA Tour also recognizes its annual Player of the Year, with the winner determined by a vote of the membership. The PGA Tour Player of the Year, who receives the Jack Nicklaus Trophy, will be announced by the Tour in December.
Since 1948, The PGA of America has honored the game's best players with The PGA Player of the Year Award. The award is currently presented to the top touring professional based on a point system for tournament wins, official money standings, and scoring averages.
JPX-800 Swing to Win Challenge Recap
by Mizuno USA on October 31, 2011
Meet the winners of Mizuno's national sweepstakes, the JPX-800 Swing to Challenge, and relive their experience of playing a dream round of golf with Mizuno PGA Tour Stars Luke Donald and Charles Howell III.
Q&A with PGA Tour Staffer Charles Howell III
by Mizuno USA on October 20, 2011
Below are a series of interview questions from Mizuno PGA Tour Staff Member Charles Howell III. Charles reflects upon his 2011 PGA Tour Season, talks about his mental preparation for golf, and how he works to improve his game.
Charles reflecting upon his 2011 PGA Tour Season.
Charles talking about how he mentally prepares for the game of golf.
Charles discusses how he works to improve his golf game.
Norceca's by Jordan Larson
by Brynn Murphy on October 20, 2011
This last month has been a wild ride but a good one! We ended up going undefeated and winning Norceca's. It was a great all around tournament for us. We continually got better as the tournament went on and we proved why we are #2 in the World. It was fun to go back to Puerto Rico to see everyone. I played there my first season overseas and it was great to go back and see all the wonderful people that I met and played with. As with every tournament it brings its challenges. It was my mom's two year anniversary since her death on the 16th of September. The 16th of September was also the most important day in the tournament. We had to play Cuba to go to the finals and qualify for World Cup. Cuba is a very dangerous team because they can turn it on and become unstoppable. On this day I struggled with remembering my mom but also being there for my team. I wanted to reflect on the memories I had but I knew that she would want me to focus on the game. She never wanted me to worry about her when she was here and I know she would not want me to worry about her now but just know that she is with me wherever I am. I felt like she was with me that night guiding my heart and giving to my teammates.
After winning Norceca's we got a week off!!!! Yes I SAID IT! ONE WEEK OFF! :) This was a much needed break both physically and mentally for me. This week started out right with a trip to Omaha with the besties! We were able to shop a little and grab lunch. Two of my best friends were also my teammates and former senior captains of the 2008 Nebraska Volleyball team. Every chance I make it back to Nebraska I try and see these two lovely ladies. We have shared in a lot of important things in each other's lives such as winning a national championship, participating in each other's weddings and now Rachel Schwartz (Culwell) is pregnant and we can not wait to spoil her little girl. Getting to spend some good quality time with family and friends was amazing.
While at home I also got to help celebrate my cousins 21st birthday. We went out to dinner and then followed and finished the night off with heading downtown. It was great to spend time with them and help celebrate this momentous occasion. Happy birthday Megan! So glad I got to spend it with you and your friends! :)
My husband Luke and I got to help celebrate our friends wedding that weekend. Luke was in the wedding and got to stand a long side one of his great friends. We could not be happier for them, and it was great to get out on the dance floor with everyone and let go a little. We Love you Katie and Nick and wish you many years of happiness together! :)
To top the weekend off I made a trip up to my home town, Hooper. I do not make it back often because I am usually only home for quick weekends at a time. I went back to the church that I went to as a child. They were doing a special dedication to my mother who had been a member for many years. After her death the donations received were given back to the church because we knew that is what she would have wanted. They had bought eight beautiful banners that they will display for holidays and or special occasions. It was great to go back to see everyone from my childhood and to see the impact my mom had on people. I was very emotional that day because Sunday church was something my mom and I would always do together. I actually sat in the same pew as her. I did not realize it until after I was sitting there for a while but I felt like she was with me that day. I miss her, but know she made me the person I am today and I am so proud to call her my mother.
This was quite the eventful week for me, but it filled me so full of joy and makes me thankful for the people I have in my life. I could not be happier and more blessed. So this is for everyone in my life who has impacted me and made me the player and person I am today, I could not have done it without you and even though I may not see a lot of you or talk to you often you mean the world to me. :)
Dream Big & Never Settle
Q&A with PGA Tour Staffer Luke Donald
by Mizuno USA on October 18, 2011
Below are a series of interview questions from Mizuno PGA Tour Staff Member Luke Donald. Luke reflects upon his 2011 PGA Tour Season, his relationship with his equipment manufacturer Mizuno, and the true inspiration in his life, his daughter.
Luke talking about his 2011 PGA Tour Season
Luke talking about his relationship with his equipment manufacturer, Mizuno
Luke's true inspiration, his daughter
Mizuno Ambassador Stacy Lewis Lewis spreads message on early detection of scoliosis
by Iver Maple on October 17, 2011
The Clubhouse shares a story on Mizuno Ambassador Stacy Lewis and her journey to spread the word about early detection of scoliosis.
Read the full story here: http://www.theclubhouse.com.my/2011/10/lewis-spreads-message-on-early-detection-of-scoliosis/
PGAtour.com highlights the new Mizuno Tour Workshop
by Iver Maple on October 3, 2011
Mizuno technician Michael Sowerby gives a tour of the brand new state of the art Mizuno equipment truck that is making its debut at the 2011 Tour Championship by Coca-Cola. Check it out on PGAtour.com
Jennie Finch’s Blog: The Final Countdown
by Jennie Finch on June 18, 2011
Is today the day or is tonight the night?
Now that we are down to the wire, these are my daily thoughts as we try to prepare for our sweet Baby D’s arrival. Crazy how time has flown by. I am 39 weeks already!
I think having Ace during this pregnancy has truly made it fly. Being a mommy already, this time around there was much less “me time” — and of course it’s all about him, as it should be! My days are filled with keeping up with an active 5 year old boy and I think I love it just as much as he does!
The End Is In Sight! People.com
by Jennie Finch on May 20, 2011
My due date is fast approaching — it seems like this blog is weekly and not monthly the way time is flying by! I keep coming across things that I should have and be prepared, for such as a birthing plan. Well, I’m not that organized and really am used to living on the fly. However, I do need to get myself and all the things we’ll need together because Baby Daigle will be here before we know it.
It’s a little strange because we are living on the road this time. With Ace we were so blessed to be in our home in Arizona. Casey was with the Diamondbacks last time around, and I was able to be in our house and have everything right there.
by Jennie Finch on May 8, 2011
“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.” Abraham Lincoln
When I think of my Mother I think of my rock, my go to, to backbone, and so much more. I am so blessed to have the Mother I do. She is always there and always has been. I cannot think of a time where I didn’t have her there. The many games she has sat through, the many tears she has wiped and the many tears that have fallen from her beautiful green eyes, the many sacrifices, the love she has always shown me, I cannot express my gratitude for my mama! I praise God for the woman and example she is and has helped me become. I look back and she has not once put herself before us, constantly giving and giving. The many back rubs, the patience, the understanding, the many hugs, the constant prayers, she has given me way beyond anything I can put on paper. You have given me and shown me wings so that I could fly! Today and everyday we should all celebrate our Mother’s and the many amazing Mother’s of this world.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Thank YOU! I love You!
Happy 5th Birthday Ace!
by Jennie Finch on May 4, 2011
5 years ago today our world was rocked, turned upside down, scattered around, and we were blessed with the greatest gift of all- Our Ace! Our hearts were ripped up and placed inside this 8 lb 11 oz angel. We were blessed with this love that we’d never felt or had before.
So many emotions, joy, excitement, worry, elation, responsibility, happiness, anxiousness- I became a better woman, Casey became a better man. Our dream had come true we were parents, a mom and a dad! Each day our love has only grown. Just when you thought you’ve loved to the moon and back all of sudden its to infinity and back. These last five years have been more than we could of ever hoped for or imagined. May 4, 2006 our lives became more meaningful! It seemed like it was just yesterday Casey and I were handing him off in the middle of the night,that my mom and I were packing him up at 3 months old and heading to China for the World Championships, he was getting his first tooth. And all of a sudden he is reeling in and catching his own fish with his daddy and big ones I have to add!
We love you Ace with every piece of us and are so proud and grateful for each and everyday and moment with you! Time spent with you is never enough… Happy whole hand Big #5 Birthday!
Jennie’s recent blog post for People Magazine
by Jennie Finch on April 19, 2011
Jennie Finch’s Blog: Finding Friends in Fresno
Please give a warm welcome to our newest celebrity blogger, Jennie Finch! The recently retired softball player is expecting her second child in late June and will be sharing her pregnancy experience with us monthly.
The Olympian, 30 — who won gold in Athens and silver in Beijing — and her husband, Major League Baseball pitcher Casey Daigle, are already parents to son Ace Shane, 4½.
Currently 30 weeks along, Finch writes about the family’s latest move — to Fresno, Calif. this time — connecting with new moms in the area, and pitching while pregnant!
We so greatly enjoyed our spring training time in Arizona! It flew by. We saw friends, had softball clinics, visited my old stomping grounds at the University of Arizona, went to games, played, and did a TON of swimming because that was Ace’s favorite thing.
Baby Daigle is super active. We’ve had fun as a family watching my belly shift from side to side. I’ve been able to feel his arms, legs and head. It’s just a sweet, sweet miracle. Casey’s not quite sure how he feels about the moving. He’d rather just look from a distance. I wonder how many other women’s husbands felt the same way? Kind of weirded out by their wife’s belly moving around…
Heartburn and my allergies are constant these days. Tissues and Tums are always on my bedside. I keep telling myself those are small prices to pay for a miracle like this!
I had a blast getting out on the softball field the last few weekends in March. We went out to Bentonville, Arkansas for another Jennie Finch Softball Camp. It is our fourth time going out to Razorback Country and it gets better every time.
It’s such an amazing opportunity to inspire and encourage young women! We live in what seems to be a dark world at times and to see these girls having fun, being active, gaining confidence, learning to deal with adversity, overcome failure, and so much more, inspires me to keep doing it!
I have to say it took me a few days to recover from this one. I needed some serious rest. I’m not sure if it was the pitching and hitting demonstrations being 7 months pregnant, being on my feet all day or what, but it was so worth it! So grateful to be pitching, baby bump in the front. Every time I wonder if it’s the last pitch for a few months.
I’m at that part of my pregnancy, the beginning of the third trimester, when some of the changes to my body get to be a little uncomfortable. I’d forgotten from the first time around, but was reminded when I put on shorts for the first time and it prompted me to start doing walking lunges up and down the hall of our apartment building.
I panicked for a minute, but then laughed about it and realized it’s kind of crazy how much our bodies can change and kind of a miracle that they change back! Just working on taking good care of Baby Daigle in there and the rest will work itself out.
Our next stop is May 14 & 15 in Ardmore, Oklahoma. It’s our last JFSCamp before Baby Daigle’s arrival. I need to dig deep and find one more pitching demo within. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to. Fingers crossed! I think a bigger problem is finding enough stretch in my USA Jersey to fit…
Like I said, spring training was so wonderful, but before we knew it, it was over. It’s the life of all but a few ballplayers to not know where you’ll be from one day to the next. Things can change just like that. As it turns out, Casey is starting the season with the San Francisco Giants’ AAA team, the Fresno Grizzlies, so we were excited to pack up our things and head to northern California.
Casey’s off to a great start for the season. He got his first win and save this week out of the bullpen. As a pitcher I have so much respect for the ‘pen. He and the other guys get to the ballpark hours and hours before the game with the rest of the team, but they have to wait and wait to perform. Sometimes it’s after 9 p.m. when they’re called to action. They sit there on the cold metal seats, shivering in their hooded sweatshirts. The craziest part is that they love it!
Casey loves it! He goes to the ballpark every day knowing there might be a chance he gets in and is able to contribute. Last night, there we were, Ace snuggled in, asleep on my shrinking lap, drooling on my shirt, and Casey was getting ready to go in at 10 p.m. and the temperature was in the 40s. My back and arm hurt just watching him!! But we’re both grateful that he can do what he loves.
We’re once again enjoying getting to know a new city and ball club. I’m even happier because there are lots of expecting mommies here with the team, and other kids for Ace to play with. We’re getting to share our belly and baby stories. It’s amazing to be able to share with other women going through the same things as a mom, and trying to do it in the uncertain world of baseball.
Away from family, always in new apartments, we share any info we have as far as keeping our kids on a schedule (even if it’s a very different schedule from other little kids. Their daddies play late and sleep late!), doctors in different cities, and how to pull off a mobile nursery. Women are incredible when it comes to sharing information. If anyone out there has any tips for us, please post them in the comments and I will share with all the other moms up here.
Ace is adjusting well to Fresno. He loves his new room. Lucky for us he’s used to this life! Living out of bags and sleeping in different beds is the norm for him. Finding fun spots for him helps me and Casey connect to new places, too. Parks, play places, indoor pools … it’s the first thing we look for.
Since I’ve partnered with Shout as their new celebrity stain expert, I’ve been talking about how important it is for kids to play (and for us to play with them!) as part of their Go Play initiative. The idea is that we shouldn’t worry about stains from paint or dirt or grass or whatever. Playing is the most important thing, and Shout’s there to clean up the mess.
I’m really happy about the campaign. There was a crazy day of shooting in Arizona that was tons of fun. I had to scramble for wardrobe because nothing I had fit. But what I really loved was that when we got together, they really took into consideration things that are important to me right down to using my number, 27, as part of the program.
They made me think about things I’ve learned and want to share — things I work on every day to keep me and my boys grounded as our family travels around the country. With the pace of our lives and baby number two on the way, I don’t get much time to sit and be thoughtful. It’s nice when work gives me an excuse to do it!
One of the best things in Fresno we’ve discovered is all the fresh produce in the Valley. I’m in heaven. It’s just what I’m craving — avocado, strawberries, citrus. Yum! Speaking of which, the little guy is butternut squash-sized these days. Right around 2 lbs. Ace was 8 lbs., 11 oz, so I’m preparing for lots more growth to come! Taking bets on whether or not baby #2 is going to be bigger.
We also think we’ve got a name picked out, but we’ll see. Although, I think since Ace is already using that name to refer to his baby brother, we’re probably locked in. I’m thinking we should have a contest to see if anyone can guess. I have to figure out what that prize would be, but stay tuned!
– Jennie Finch
Passionately Chasing The Dream!
by Jennie Finch on April 8, 2011
Last night sitting at opening night for Triple A baseball, watching Casey start another season of ball so many thoughts went through my mind. I was in awe of what a beautiful site it was. For starts it may have been the fact that for this wife and mommy I was feeling so completely blessed with my surroundings. I was sitting there with Ace sound asleep on my lap, yes he is 50 lbs and my shirt covered in drool but I was loving every minute of it! Meanwhile, Baby Daigle was kicking and fist pumping for room and letting us know he is in there and squished! It may have been the first brother battle with many more to come but it was so beautiful! I was able to see my husband dressed out in another uniform and in different colors chasing the dream! And I might add he does look good in Orange & Black!
I began reflecting. This is the start of our 10th baseball season together and Casey’s 12th season since he was drafted from high school. When we started dating he was in Single A with the Lancaster Jet Hawks. Wow, where has time gone? Well, all over the US that is for sure. Through all the different levels of baseball and 4 different trips up to the Big Leagues! This is Casey’s 5th Ball Club overall and to think he just turned 30 last Monday! I am so proud of him for all he has accomplished and endured! He has experienced the terrible hotels and long bus rides to the private jets and 5 star hotels! My man has been round and round and up and down! (And the one thing he is probably most proud of is not one of those days of his 12 years has been spent on the DL. Pretty impressive! That is like not using a sick day in 12 years! I have to give him major props but also thank the big Man upstairs for allowing him to stay off the DL and tough enough not to give in and endure the pain at times!)
The craziest call up of all was with the D’Backs. He flew all the way to Florida to meet the team and to sit in the clubhouse for a game not even dress out, only to be sent right back to Tucson back to Triple A the next day! Talk about crazy! This is the reality of baseball. Getting “the call” is hard enough let alone having the opportunity to stick thats another journey!
As I was watching the game admiring the opening night hype and fresh cut green grass I was thinking about the men out there in uniform. Many of these guys have experienced the “Bigs” and are trying to get back there but there is more to it. They are husbands, dads, sons trying to make a living to support their families. These are guys are all waiting hoping for “the call” but meanwhile making the most of each day in uniform. Hoping for “the call” and facing the reality that any day they could get the opposite released or sent down.
I was sitting there with complete admiration of these ball players and them chasing the dream! I was thinking I hope I keep living as though I am chasing a dream! I hope that passion continues within us all. Its the journey of chasing the dream that is the most memorable indeed! The ups and downs, the joy and heartbreak, the victory and defeat, may we continue chasing the dream just like these men in uniform! Not focusing on the what ifs but passionately living-chasing a dream, your dream! Meanwhile, continue to admire and be inspired by others chasing their dream like this mama was last night especially our very own #41!
May we all Continue to Dream & Believe!
Our First Olympic Qualifier by Alisha Glass
by Brynn Murphy on September 27, 2011
We just finished competing in the NORCECA tournament in Caguas, Puerto Rico. We went undefeated and won the tournament, which also won us a spot in the World Cup, the first opportunity to qualify for the Olympics. The team is really coming together and we are looking forward to our last tournament of year three of this quad. World Cup doesn’t start until the end of October, so we were lucky enough to score a week long break.
I haven’t been home since April. Home for me is Leland, Michigan. I grew up in a very small town, but the perk of small towns is the community feel. I go home and am greeted with so much love, not only from my immediate family, but community members that follow my career and support every step of my journey.
My mom is a high school volleyball coach and even coached me in high school, so it was fun to see her team play and interact with the players. My mom is an amazing coach and through volleyball, teaches the girls on her team life lessons. It’s amazing to see the young girls committed to the team and to her. I think it’s so important for young athletes to commit to working hard and to developing relationships with their teammates and coaches.
Getting a break from volleyball was also nice! Small towns are great for having unique restaurants. I crave this cherry chicken salad sandwich on an amazing herb bread from Sisson’s Main Street Specialties. If you ever find yourself in Leland Michigan, make sure you get one! I had lunch there with my grandparents and two of our dear family friends.
I also got to see my niece Lilly, who technically isn’t my niece because she’s my cousin’s daughter, but because my cousin and I are like sisters, I will always be Aunt Alisha to Lilly. We might be biased, but we consider her one of the cutest babies around.
My trip home had to be productive, because the next time I’m home, I’ll be getting ready for my season in Poland. Last year I was in Brazil and with living in California, most of my wardrobe is geared towards warm weather. I went shopping for sweaters, jackets, boots, hats, etc. I’m not a fan of being cold, even though I’m from Michigan. I’ve also been checking out the gear in the new Mizuno volleyball catalogue for some warmer gear to train in. I’m a big fan of the ¾ Warm Up Tights, and also of the Maverick Warm Up Top. I think I’ll also need a Mizuno Hoody to help keep me warm!
So much will be happening in the next couple months between World Cup and Poland, the finishing of one season and the start of another. Each brings different focuses and challenges. I’m reminded every time I go home, that what I get to do for a living right now, is so different from the norm. I’m blessed to be in a position to travel the world and play the sport I love. I look back on the hard work and sacrifices that it took to get where I am today, and I’m grateful I had the support of a great community and family in order to make the dream a reality.
Off to a Good Start! by Ryan Millar
by Brynn Murphy on September 21, 2011
At the end of August into the beginning of September, we competed in our zone championship in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. When we play in Puerto Rico, we usually play in either in San Juan or Caguas, so a change in venue was something new. It was very hot and very humid as we started practice in preparation for the start of the tournament. We started off very strong, beating Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, and Cuba to finish first in our pool. A first place finish gave us a bye past the quarter finals, straight into the semi finals where we matched up against Puerto Rico. The winner of this match would go onto the finals and more importantly qualify for the World Cup in November. The World Cup is the first opportunity we will have to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England. We ended up winning 3-0 against Puerto Rico and achieving our goal. In the final we ended up playing Cuba again and losing a close match 2-3. All in all we did what we set out to do which was qualifying. I know the rest of the guys will be eager to play Cuba again as we do not like losing to them at all.
I am gearing up for another year overseas. Should be another interesting and fun adventure. I am looking forward to playing in a new place and competing with new players. I hope I can add value to the team and create some success.
Back-to-Back Grand Prix Champions by Jordan Larson
by Emily Adams Knight on September 13, 2011
Many things have happened since the last time I blogged. When I last wrote we had just finished our first week of Grand Prix in China and had three left to go. We traveled to Japan and Hong Kong and won our pools at each location which qualified us for the finals in Macau, China. We were put into pools of 4 and played a round robin tournament for the first three days. We finished 2nd in our pool, after losing to Brazil in four sets, which placed us against Serbia in the Semifinal. We beat Serbia in three which moved us into the FINALS and a rematch against Brazil! Every time we meet up with Brazil it is a battle, they are a great team and bring it every time they step on the floor. Our USA squad came out strong and never let up. We beat them in three and became back-to-back Grand Prix CHAMPIONS!
This was the first time in my career that I have won back-to-back championships. It is definitely a feeling you could get used too! This victory had even more significance though. It proved that we have a great team that can take any team in the world and challenge them. Even at times when all of us aren't firing on all cylinders, we found a way to battle as a team. Every chance we had to score or get a run of points we were fighting till the whistle. What people don't realize is the mental struggle it takes to get through 5 straight matches in 5 days. You have to focus on every point and make sure you are executing at a high level. This month long tournament definitely takes a toll on your mind and body.
When our team spends so much time away from home some of us players get into weekly habits. One of the habits on this last trip was regularly watching Bachelor Pad and Jersey Shore. Since we can't watch these shows live we resort to finding them on the internet. This is our time to get our mind off of volleyball and really enjoy the company of each other. Not only do we have TV nights, we also try to entertain ourselves outside the hotel with things that remind us of home. While we were in Japan and China there were many strolls around the hotel to Starbucks and 7Eleven's. My favorite drink to get at Starbucks is the White Chocolate Mocha. I was first introduced to this drink back in college by my college teammate Tracy Stalls. On this trip I ventured out when my teammate Christa Harmotto came on the bus with a Starbucks in hand, it was the new Mint Mocha. I had never tried it before and she knows how much I crave Starbucks so she offered for me to try it. It was fabulous.
Okay enough about Starbucks.. Let's discuss some secrets of the U.S. National Team.
I would like everyone to meet Filo.
Filo is the stuffed animal of none other than the Captain of our National team Jen Tamas. Filo has been a part of Jen's life since she was five. She said that when she was young she would go to her grandparents house in Iowa and her Grandfather would often go to the Goodwill and buy a bag full of toys for only 5 dollars. He would then come home, move all the furniture in the living room and dump all the toys in the middle for her and all of her cousins to choose from. She said she saw Filo and could not imagine her life with him. After winning a struggle with her cousin that had the same idea, Jen was not going to let Filo go. She said she ran into the bedroom and stuffed him in the bottom of her sleeping bag and would often check to make sure he was still there. Little did she know she would have to be doing the same thing almost 24 years later. Filo travels with us wherever we go because she cannot sleep without him. For her this is her comfort on the road, it is her sense of home. We often like to tease her about this by trying to steal Filo, because we know she cannot sleep without it. There have been many nights of panic from Jen because she can't find him. We find ways to inflict pain on Filo and send Jen pictures with ransom notes attached. We find it very entertaining and it keeps things on the team very light hearted. This is where Jen found Filo one morning after practice... Poor Filo :(
After getting back to California there has been little time for rest. We have been preparing for the Norceca tournament in Puerto Rico. The top two teams from this tournament will qualify for the World Cup in November which is the first tournament that can qualify us for the Olympics. This is a really important time for our team and this is the time that we have all been training for. I know I grew up saying I wanted to play in the Olympics but I never knew the full process it took to actually make the Olympics. We have to finish in the top 3 in the World Cup to qualify for the Olympics.
After the Norceca tournament we get to have a little time at home. I am really looking forward to spending some quality time with family and friends which will include the wedding of some good friends. After the small break we will continue to train and prepare for the World Cup. Then it will be time for me to go back to the frozen tundra, Russia, to join my professional team. I look forward to playing with my teammates over there and competing overseas again.
Dream Big & Never Settle
Stacy Lewis to represent United States in the Solheim Cup
by Iver Maple on September 1, 2011
JPX-800 player Stacy Lewis has capped her amazing 2011 season by qualifying for the U.S. Solheim Cup Team.
The Solheim Cup takes place Sept. 23-25, at Killeen Castle in Ireland and this is Stacy’s first appearance in the event.
Lewis turned professional after graduating with a degree in finance from Arkansas in 2008, and won qualifying school earning her LPGA Tour card in her first attempt.
Lewis played two full seasons before notching her first Tour (and MAJOR) win in 2011, coming from behind to defeat the No. 1 player in the world and win the Kraft Nabsico title. Lewis has had a tremendous 2011 and last week posted the lowest final day score of 67 in the Canadian Open, falling only one stroke short in a T-2 effort.
We wish Stacy the best of luck in Ireland!
Back Together by Ryan Millar
by Brynn Murphy on August 18, 2011
Back together and back to work.
After the grueling schedule of the World League and World League Finals, we were lucky to have some time off. A few of the guys got to spend that time playing in the Olympic Test Event, while some of the others including myself got to stay states side and work on getting stronger and more dynamic. After a few weeks of getting after it in the weight room all of the team got a well deserved week off. I am sure that everyone had a great time with family and friends. I got to be at home for a while before heading out to Casper, WY. to do my annual volleyball camp there. With me was fellow Olympic Gold Medalist and Team USA Libero Rich Lambourne (come to find out later that this was actually Rich’s first volleyball camp experience as a coach). We had a great time in WY. The people there and the kids that attended the camp were all very grateful to have us. There hospitality made the camp that much more enjoyable. Mizuno provided the camp T shirts (thanks again Brynn!) The kids loved them. They worked hard for 4 long days. It always amazes me to see the energy of a 15-16 year old volleyball player that loves the game. When you get to be a part of a camp where the kids are excited and eager to play volleyball, it makes coaching them fun.
After the camp was over I made my way back down to Southern California to start training and begin to prepare to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games. The first step in qualifying will be a NORCECA Zone tournament in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico at the end of August. The NORCECA Zone is our international volleyball zone. Teams also in the zone include Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Barbados. We need to be in the finals of that tournament to qualify for the World Cup. Now the World Cup is the first FIVB tournament where a qualification into the Olympic Games is possible. The top three teams at the World Cup qualify for the Olympic Games. I have played in 3 World Cups in my career with Team USA, and at every one of them we have finished 4th!! One spot away from qualifying. Hopefully this year will be different.
So that is where we are right now. We are focusing on fine tuning the things we are good at, and getting better at the things we aren’t. Volleyball is the complete and ultimate team sport. There will always be 6 players that will need to depend and trust one another. The teams that are successful do this. The teams that aren’t usually aren’t successful.
On the Road by Jordan Larson
by Brynn Murphy on August 10, 2011
Hello from Nagoya Japan,
Myself and the rest of the girls with the U.S. National team have just arrived at our second destination of the Grand Prix Tournament. Grand Prix is a month long tournament spent in a different country every week. Each week we play a round robin type tournament with three other teams. It is a difficult tournament to win because there is a lot of travel involved which translates to often playing in different time zones each week against some of the top teams in the world. Last week we had the opportunity to play Serbia, Kazakhstan & China in Luohe, China.
Our opening match was against Serbia. Serbia is a big, physical team similar to the teams I have played against in Russia. The professional team I have played with for the last two seasons, Dinamo Kazan, is in the Russian Super League. We came out very strong and won the first two sets but Serbia did not give up and pushed us to a fifth set. In the end we found a way to win but I felt we did not accomplish some of the little things that we work so hard on every day. It was time to refocus and get ready for the next match against Kazakhstan.
Team Photo In China before playing Serbia:
The next morning the team got up, ate breakfast, did our normal serve and pass routine, and watched video on Kazakhstan. We played a pretty steady match for the most part but got into a little trouble in the 2nd set. Once we pulled through that rough patch we were able to finish the game in three. We played together and played smart, but there was no time to relax. We had the home team China the next day. It is always hard to beat a team when they are playing at home. I remember playing for Nebraska in front of 17,000 Nebraska fans to the win the national championship in 2006 and think about how difficult it must have been for the opposing team.
Team Huddle during our match against Kazakhstan:
This would be my third time playing China this summer. Earlier in the summer I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Montreux Switzerland with the team. In that tournament we face China two times, once in pool play and then in the bronze medal match. As expected, China came out strong in front of the home crowd but we were able to slowly take over the match. We played a solid game and defeated China in 3.
Putting up a block against China:
While being in China this past week on August 4th I celebrated my mom's 53rd birthday. Her birthday is important to be because I lost her to breast cancer 2 years ago this September. Her birthday gives me a chance to celebrate her and what she has done to impact my life. She pushed me to be the best person and player I could be and I am forever grateful for the 22 years I got to spend with her. Now she is with me wherever I go.
My mom and I on my wedding day:
Another interesting fact about being on this trip is that in some countries we cannot eat the meat. There have been a couple USA athletes that have tested positive for a certain steroid that has been found in the meats. Needless to say we have had to pack pounds and pounds of packaged protein. If you can see the picture below, my carry-on is packed full with protein bars, beef jerky, packaged tuna, protein powder for shakes, and nuts. Instances like this are when you have to find a way to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This phrase has saved my life over the past few years with living overseas. When you are on a 14 hour train ride through Russia in a small room with people you don't know that don't speak English, everything smells and is dirty you have to find a way to get through.
Picture of all my protein for this trip... this is my carry-on:
Thinking about this past weekend there are a lot of things we did well as a team but there is always room for improvement. One of the things I am working on as a player is trying to be more efficient. Over the past two years I have really changed from the player I was in college and I work every day to continue to get better. I look forward to seeing what our team is capable of next week as we face Dominican Republic, Japan, and Serbia. We have a lot of talent on this team but we must continue to play together and control the things we can on our side of the net.
Dream Big & Never Settle,
Mizuno Irons Take Home Three "Player's Choice" Awards from Golfing Magazine
by Mizuno USA on June 27, 2011
The latest edition of Golfing Magazine includes their annual irons review, in which all four irons from Mizuno's current lineup were very well received. In fact, three of our irons - JPX-800 Pro, MP-63, and MP-53 - all received 2011 "Player's Choice" Awards from the publication. Golfing Magazine ranked all the irons based upon appearance, forgiveness, feel, consistency, and distance.
In the Game Improvement category, both the JPX-800 and JPX-800 Pros scored very well. The JPX-800 were atop the list for distance, while the JPX-800 Pros led for appearance, forgiveness, feel, and consistency, which earned these clubs a "Player's Choice Award". The feedback from the testers was extremely positive for both clubs as well.
For the Players Irons, both the MP-63 and MP-53 took home "Player's Choice Awards". The MP-63s, which Golfing Magazine referred to as the "Best Mizuno's ever", earned high marks for appearance and feel, while the "highly recommended" MP-53s picked up 5 out of 5 stars for appearance, forgiveness, and feel.
USA Volleyball counts down to the USAV Girls' Jr. Nationals in Atlanta
by Emily Adams Knight on June 17, 2011
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 16, 2011) – The 32nd annual USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships (GJNC) will take place from June 25-July 4 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
Read the full article here.
A Behind the Scenes Look at the US Open from the Mizuno PGA Tour Team - Day 2
by Iver Maple on June 15, 2011
The tour trailer got right to work this morning at the US Open as Luke Donald's caddie, Johnny McLaren, stopped by to get his bosses entire set of clubs re-gripped. Luke usually gets fresh grips put on his gamers before most big tournaments as was the case earlier in the year at the Player's Championship. A run through of his club's specs and off went Johnny to greet Luke on the range. But what would golf be without a little fun? Luke thought he would break in his fresh MP T-11 lob wedge with a friendly bunker game against fellow Ryder Cup teammate Padraig Harrington.
Later in the day, the van was a buzz as a number of non-Mizuno Staffers stopped by to get some wedge work done. One of them wanted to try two new wedges without a heel grind, thus increasing the effective bounce. Given the soft bunkers and lush rough at Congressional, this strategy should pay large dividends. Another player who has gamed MP-68's over the last few seasons, came by the tour van to get some fresh grips installed. He even made our job a bit easier by pitching in and pulling off his old grips.
We look forward to tomorrow and double checking with each of our players to see if all of their needs have been met. As with all US Opens, solid ball striking and exceptional short game ability will be required. What better way to meet those demands than with a set of Mizuno irons and wedges in your bag!"
The Mizuno PGA Tour Team
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PGATour.com talks to Luke Donald about consistency and his goals to accomplish.
by Iver Maple on June 15, 2011
No. 1 has just begun.
Luke Donald reached the summit of the world ranking with an incredible 10 top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts, including two wins. Now that he's on top, says Helen Ross, the affable Englishman has many other goals to accomplish.
Read the article here.