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,