Morgan Springer, who recently completed her career with the Ole Miss volleyball team this past fall, is currently playing volleyball competitively on a tour of Europe in the hopes of beginning a professional career in the sport.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 19 - Yesterday we drove to the capital of Croatia to play a Croatian professional team. The capital of Croatia is a city called Zagreb.
On our way to Zagreb we had to stop at the border to have each one of our passports checked before we entered either country, which was kind of odd when a very stern looking man had to individually look at each one of our passports. For some reason it was a bit intimidating but I guess is very normal for Europeans to have their passports checked.
We left earlier in the day so we would have some time to sight see in the city for a couple hours before we played in the evening.
The city of Zagreb was beautiful. Like many other European cities I have seen so far, Zagreb has really beautiful old buildings and churches. There were also many trains running through the city and tons of people walking. Many parts of Europe I have seen so far are very similar; however in Croatia they use kunas instead of euros for their money, which wasn't exactly ideal for us. After we saw some of the city, we headed to the gym where we played. There was a men's volleyball team practicing in the gym before we got there. They were pretty impressive and it reminded me of how popular the sport of volleyball is over here.
After they were done, we warmed up and played our match against the Croatian team. Their style of play was very similar to how the other European teams played. It's been fun competing against these teams and adapting to their style.
After the game we had to take the two hour drive back to Slovenia, but I always love the drives because it gives us the opportunity to talk to the other girls. There are so many interesting girls here with such a wide variety of stories to share.
This morning we had our last training session. We played most of the time and it was sad playing for the last time with this group of girls. A little after, some of us went to the center of Maribor to eat some lunch before we had to meet back up with the rest of the group at 3:45 for wine tasting in town. The restaurant we ate had delicious food. the food here is always so fresh.
After lunch, we met up with the rest of the group before we all walked to the winery. At the winery we went down to the cellar where we were given a tour of the facility. This particular winery was built in the 1800s and had tons of old wooden barrels that they no longer use. It was interesting to hear about how long the winery had been in use and all the history behind it. At the actual tasting of the wine, the tour guide gave us a description of each wine before she poured it. Of course, not many of us knew a whole lot about wine or the process of how to test the wine. It was fascinating to learn.
After the wine tasting we headed to a match in the city between Maribor and Urbino. The match was really close, but the atmosphere was very similar to the matches we had attended previously.
After the match we ate dinner at the hotel then we were off for the rest of the night to just socialize before we all left early in the morning to head back home. We had a blast hanging out with one another before we all left. I have met some truly remarkable people and have seen some beautiful places. This experience overall has been amazing! These last 10 days have been eye opening and I will never forget this tour. Hopefully next fall I will get the opportunity to play somewhere in Europe to revisit this beautiful place!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 17 - Sunday morning we got some time to sleep in before we had to go to breakfast. At breakfast, we were told when we would be playing. There were matches throughout the day. I ended up playing a match later in the day against a Croatian team. It was fun but I played with a group of girls I hadn't played with before so we all had to find a rhythm.
For dinner we went to eat on the slopes of the mountain. We went up on the gondola and it was pretty scary the higher we went. I had never been on a gondola before! It was cold up on the mountain but the stars looked so pretty from up there. After dinner we took the gondola back down the mountain and hung out in our room before we went to sleep.
Monday we went to breakfast at around 9 a.m. Then we went to a training session from 10 to 12 p.m. before lunch at 1 p.m. After practice, some of us played around for a bit and it was really fun just playing around with some of the coaches. At five a group of us went to a town called Benedict in Slovenia to play one of the teams. Everyone had to play random positions but it was fun playing different spots.
After the game some of us girls went to dinner in the lobby and hung out for a bit. It's always fun socializing with everyone and hearing about where they are from in the states. I had to call it an early night though after dinner because I needed to catch up on some sleep. I also wanted to be ready to go Tuesday to play and check out Austria. Hopefully it's just as beautiful as the places I've seen so far!
SUNDAY, JANUARY 15 - Yesterday we walked around the city of Milan for about an hour before we left for a train to another city about 30 minutes away called Bergamo. The city of Milan was beautiful and had so many extravagant structures. There were a ton of people walking the streets. It was such a busy city and it had pigeons everywhere walking on the sidewalks. I've noticed in most of the cities of Italy everyone walks or takes public transportation to get around. It's very different from what I am used to but it's been fun seeing how the Italians live.
After we walked around the city for bit, we took a train to Bergamo where we were going to play another match tonight. After we played our match in Bergamo, where we had stayed the night before, we headed off to Slovenia. For dinner we went to a restaurant that served non-stop pizza, it was delicious. They had a pizza called Americano and it had hot dogs and fries on it. It was hysterical but not the best tasting pizza. After dinner we went back to our apartment where all 11 of us girls stayed the night together in the same flat. We ended up staying up till about 2:30 a.m. which of course didn't seem like such a good idea when we woke up this morning at 7a.m. I've realized I probably won't be getting too much sleep during this trip.
This morning we headed to a town in Slovenia called Trieste to meet up with the rest of the group. Once we got to Trieste, we took a bus with everyone to Bled to site see. Bled is a town surrounded completely by mountains with a lake in the middle. The city itself is breathtaking. We went to a castle that was more than a thousand years old. It was quite a hike to get to the top of the mountain where the castle was located. The view though was well worth it. The view of the whole town from the top was unbelievable. I don't think I have ever seen anything like it before. We left Bled after a couple hours and headed to Maribor to stay for the night. Once we got to Maribor, we ate dinner then checked out the night life in Slovenia.
It was a blast going out here with everyone and experiencing Slovenia's night life. Tomorrow morning we play a Croatian team who is supposed to be pretty good so I'm excited to play them!
FRIDAY, JANUARY 13 - Yesterday we spent our last day in Bologna! We were all put into certain groups and my particular group played an Italian A2 team about 20 minutes away and after we met back up with another group. We picked up this group from the hotel and all of us went to a town in Italy called Urbino which was about two hours away on a bus. Once we got there, we had time to walk around Urbino for about two hours before we headed to a gym to watch two professional teams play one another.
The town was beautiful and had a stone wall surrounding it all the way around. We walked through different alleys which had various stores and restaurants to look in. There were also many ornate churches in the town. Religious images were randomly on different buildings throughout the city, it was so pretty. After our visit in the town, we then headed to the evening match.
The two teams we watched were a Slovenian team and an Italian team who were both in some of the highest leagues in their countries. It was such an exciting atmosphere. The fans had drums and were yelling cheers the whole time. During the match they kept bringing out a giant flag and would shoot confetti out into the crowd They sure do love volleyball over here!
After the match we got back to the hotel around 12:30 a.m. We were told last night where we were going today. My group was headed to Milan for a couple days then the whole group was meeting back up in Slovenia tomorrow night. So this morning we took a bus to an Italian volleyball team's training center in Milan where we are staying for the next two nights. Once we got here we played an Italian team. After we played, we went to dinner then went as a group to watch another game about an hour away.
We watched two high level professional teams who were even better than the teams we watched yesterday. The game was pretty competitive and exciting to watch. The atmosphere in the gym was awesome. We got back pretty late but tomorrow morning we get to go tour the city of Milan before we play again later in the day. I am excited to see it!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 10 - We got into Bologna yesterday earlier in the day from the Paris airport. It was quite an adventure traveling through one foreign country to the next, but everyone was so helpful and seemed to understand I only spoke English. Most people seem to know English to some extent.
Well we got in here yesterday morning and we got a few hours before we had anything we had to do so before I took my quick nap, a couple of us who came early walked around. The city of Bologna is beautiful and the people are so put together. The streets seem so busy during the day but so calm at night. The city has so much to see and so much history in the architecture from what I've seen!
Everything is so casual, between sessions they let us do what we want and explore where we want. After I explored the city, we had a session last night where we played an Italian team. It was fun and it everyone got back not the groove of things. All the girls are so friendly and it's fun getting to meet girls who play from all over the country.
This morning we had a training session which was a bunch of training drills. The liberos went on a separate court and played and did drills. Then after we all went to lunch and had some down time before our next session tonight where we are grouped up and play another Italian team! It should be fun. I love watching the foreign teams to see how they play and interact; they seem to be much more relaxed and casual about the whole thing. It's been a blast so far and I'm excited to see what's next for us.
We are in Bologna another day or two then we are off to Slovenia I believe. I can't wait!
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