Friday, August 3, 2012

Team dinner at Cheesecake Factory

Cross Country Trek: by Sierra Crook #7

When we got the Nationals bid, the first question everyone had to answer was "How do I get there?"  The natural answer of course is to fly, but my family apparently likes to take the road less traveled, (no pun intended), so our answer to this question was to drive.  Yes, my family of five, that includes three, fairly tall teenage girls drove in a car for 37 hours to Columbus, Ohio from Spokane. Are you done shaking your head? Close your mouth now, since I'm sure your jaw just dropped. Ok, let us continue with the story.

As we compared air fare for five people versus gas cost for one car, it just made more economical sense to endure the haul to Columbus.  When we actually mapped out the route we could take, the driving answer looked even more appealing, considering we could visit numerous family members along the way.  So it was decided, we would buckle up and settle in for the road trip of a lifetime.

We began our seemingly ludicrous journey on Wednesday the 27 of June, slated to reach Columbus on July 2, after we factored in all our projected stops.  Not leaving until four in the afternoon, we agreed to drive through the night with no stops to get a head start.  After we drove all night, (way to go dad and the producers of Five Hour Energy), and made it through the endless expanse that is the width of Montana, we finally arrived in Rugby, North Dakota. Here we saw grave sites of many great grandparents, great aunts, and great uncles, visited our Great Aunt Verna, the last living family member of her generation on the Crook family side, and capped off the trip by doing the most exciting activity you can in Rugby, stand at the Geographical Center of North America.  After two hours we left Aunt Verna and Rugby and made the seemingly short trip to Fargo, North Dakota, where we finally got a hotel and slept the best 12 hours of all of our lives.

My sisters and I at the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby, North Dakota

Getting an early start the next day, we left Fargo at eight in the morning and were on the road toward my aunt's in West Lafayette, Indiana.  We stopped in Minneapolis, Minnesota at a "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" restaurant for lunch,  having the most interesting pizza any of us had ever tasted.  Back on the road just a couple of hours later, we traveled through Wisconsin and Illinois, while dodging two tornado warnings, and arrived at my aunt's in Indiana at two in the morning on June 30.

My sisters and I at Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis, Minnesota

In West Lafayette we were able to take three days to recooperate from the long drive.  We spent time watching my eleven year old cousin play baseball, visiting Butler University and Purdue University, including Hinkle Fieldhouse where Hoosiers was filmed, hanging out, and adjusting to the time difference.  I also was able to adapt to the difference in weather, got to love humidity, and continue a light workout schedule in preparation for the upcoming tournament.

Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana

My cousins, sisters, and I at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana

We left my aunt, uncle, and cousins on Monday, July 2 and drove four hours to Columbus, now with 37 hours in the car under our belts.  That night I met my team for dinner, seeing them for the first time in just under a week.  Team dinner was loud and crazy as always, but even more that night as we were all excited for the coming tournament.

Following a good night's sleep we woke the next day more ready to play than ever.  As we entered the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the thrill of playing on the biggest club volleyball stage in the country washed over me for a third year in a row.  Needless to say, I was dying to start play.

We began the day well, winning our first match.  The next few matches didn't go quite the same however, going 0-4  to finish our first pool.  We bounced back though, finishing our last two days strong with a 4-1 record and a Flight Three Championship.  To end so well was exciting, considering one of our middles, Marissa, would play her last club volleyball matches as she is headed off to college in the fall.

From driving cross country, to the tournament, to the unforgettable memories made, Nationals in Columbus, Ohio was an experience I will never forget and I wouldn't take a moment of it back, even those 37 hours spent in a back seat listening to my parents' eighties music.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The last day of the tournament, with our Flight Three Champions trophy

Nationals for a First Time: by Katy Burge #13

My grandmother, mother, and I were finally on the road towards Berlin, Ohio. After sitting on airplanes all day, then sitting in the car rental place for another hour, I was looking forward to getting up and going. Unfortunately, Berlin is a two hour drive from Columbus. The drive was filled with gorgeous, green farmland that stretched for miles. All the houses were brick, making me feel as if I had been transported back in time. There was hardly any traffic besides the occasional horse and buggy combination driven by the Amish, adding to this feeling of time travel. We reached a little town called Millersburg and were just in time for the firework show. Then we drove to Berlin to stay the night.

My grandmother arranged for us to go to Berlin because one of the largest populations of the Amish community resided there. Unfortunately for us, it was Sunday - the day of rest. So we weren't able to experience Amish stores or their culture. Instead we went back to Millersburg where we explored antique shops, the old Victorian house, and a glass museum. I learned more than I'll probably ever need to know about glass, but who knows? Maybe it'll come in handy. Then we drove all the way back to Columbus, where we will be staying the rest of the trip.

I met up with some of my teammates and we went shopping at the nearby mall. I'm not much of a shopper so most of the time was spent letting my friends know my opinion of what they tried on. "Oh that looks gorgeous on you!", or "Mmmmm I don't know about that one..." were common phrases. Towards 7 o'clock, I was starving. Good thing we went to Olive Garden, where the bread sticks and salad are endless! After we met quickly to be briefed on the tournament schedule for the next day. As it is my first time at nationals (basically, it's my first year playing club volleyball), I'm extremely excited and extremely nervous.

The convention center was busy. Courts spread throughout the space as far as the eye could see. We won our first game - a good way to start the tournament. Our next two games did not go as smoothly. The only thing to do was shrug off the losses and prepare for tomorrow. The firework show over the city lifted our spirits. It was a dazzling and grand display - possibly the best firework show I've ever seen.

The next day was rough. We played two very talented teams and kept up with them. Even though we fought hard, they ended up victorious. We kept positive, knowing that tomorrow we had to get some wins under our belts.

We started the day with two wins, meaning we took first in our pool and earned a crossover game. The crossover game was a battle straight down the end. We lost but we had given it our all, and were satisfied.

The final day went well, winning both games to ultimately bring home 29th place. Altogether, I really enjoyed my nationals experience. I had the opportunity to play high performance teams, improve my skills, and elevate my game. I'm very pleased with my decision to join club volleyball this year, it was definitely worth it.

Some Background Information

Our story begins on the first day of practice in January 2012.  We knew from the moment we stepped on the floor that this year held one goal: make it to Nationals for a third time.  Through countless practices and tournaments,  ups and downs, disappointments and victories, we reached our goal with a repeat Regional Championship in March.  Unfortunately the tournament wasn't until July, so the team experienced a bad case of the "hurry-up and waits."  Finally, however, July came and the adventure could really begin.

This blog documents that adventure from the perspective of individuals on our team.  From the ones that drove, to those who flew, to seeing the Ohio amish, to team bonding, to the actual play, we'll cover it all.  So now we ask you to join us as we recount the experience that was Columbus.