I have had a lot of first's this past month. My first trip to Baku Azerbaijan, my first ever hockey game, and my first time competing in the Final Four of Champions League. Here is a quick recap on my exciting month.
After I had last updated I had just returned back to Kazan from London. Boy what a great trip that was. Our next Champions league match was going to be held in Baku Azerbaijan. I had never been there and did not know what to expect. Many other American players play in this league and I had heard nothing but good things about this city. When we arrived in Baku I was honestly surprised. It is located right on the Caspian Sea. In my head I had visioned it would be a lot like Russia but I was blown away with how beautiful it was. The day before our game we had the morning off and were able to take a nice walk down by the sea. The weather was nice and it was very relaxing to be walking by the water.
We played against Azerail Baku the next day. This team includes some of my USA team including Heather Bown and Jennifer Tamas. It is always a nice refresher to see other Americans as it reminds you so much of home. We had to win this match to advance to the Final Four. Making it to the Final four of Champions League is a pretty big deal. I would almost compare it to the final four of the NCAA. We ended up losing the match in 3 but because we had beat them the previous week in Kazan it was forced to go to a golden set. I was quite nervous going into this last set as it was only a game to 15 and we weren't playing the best as a team in the previous sets. Baku definitely had the momentum going into the golden set. We regrouped as a team and pulled it together. We knew we weren't going to be able to do this all as individuals so we just took one point at a time and we pulled it off. It was such an exciting to end the match and everyone was more than thrilled to be going to the Final four. The final four was not for another 3 weeks so it was back to Kazan to finish up the Russian league.
After we returned to Kazan the club treated us with tickets to the hockey game. The team in Kazan is one of the best in the league. I was very excited to go as this was going to be my first hockey game. I was super impressed with how well they could skate and how good of vision the goalie's have to have. I have seen hockey on tv but nothing compares to it live. Apparently there is a difference between the NHL and the Russian league in that the Russians play on Olympic size ice. I guess in the states people want more action so that’s why they play on smaller ice. (news to me!) I was very engaged the whole game and Kazan pulled out the win with the first goal in overtime. It was a great experience and I look forward to going to another game in the future.
A week or so later we had a nice visitor come back to Kazan. It was THE Lloy Ball. For those of you who do not know him, he is a four time Olympian and a gold medalist setter. He had played in Kazan the past 4 years and was in Kazan for my first two years here. Luke and I became really good friends with him and his family. He now plays in Ufa, a city very close to Kazan. One evening we were sitting on the computer Facebook chatting with Lloy, and he got a wild hair and said I have two days off and I'm coming to Kazan. He was in town for a total of 24 hours and we made the most of it. We went to dinner at a local Cuban Restaurant (one of my favs!). After that we went to a new restaurant here in Kazan and then topped the night off with a little dancing at a new club. It was great catching up with Lloy and spending time with him. Since I have been in Kazan Lloy has made an impact on the player I am today. He has so much experience in the game of volleyball. I am so grateful for him and the time he has spent answering all of my questions. A great athlete and person. Thanks Lloy!
After Lloy came to visit it was time to get ready for the Final four of Champions League. I had been anticipating this for weeks as this is one of the top tournaments to play in. We had a tough draw which was against my teammate Logan Tom's team, Fenderbache. They have a lot of talented players and we were for sure the under dogs. That wasn't going to stop me and my team from trying our best. We came out strong in game one and won the first set. We tried to keep the momentum going but they were to strong for us and we made some unforced errors. We lost in 4 but I was very pleased with our performance as a team. I felt like we left it all out there which is an important lesson I have learned over the years. We had no time to rest as we were playing against another teammate and former teammate of mine the next day, Lindsey Berg and Sarah Schlutz formerly known as Sarah Paven. We played a solid match and we came out victorious. All in all it was a good weekend for us. Of course we wanted to win it all but this just wasn't in the cards for us. I look forward to competing in Champions League next season and get another shot at the title.
Dream Big & Never Settle