OXFORD, Miss. - While most students have left the Ole Miss campus, as summer officially begins this weekend, the Rebel volleyball team has been practicing the past couple of weeks getting ready for the trip of a lifetime. Sunday, the team, coaches and support staff will head to Europe for a 10-day trip, including volleyball matches and team bonding as they explore different cultures.
The team will land in Prague, Czech Republic first and then head to Vienna, Austria and several other cities in Italy, before concluding the trip in Milan.
"I've never been on one of these trips before, and I've been coaching 17 years," head coach Steven McRoberts said. "I know the girls are excited about it, and even for me it's neat to be able to do this. It's nice to reward players. There are a lot of players who wouldn't see the world otherwise. It's good for team bonding, especially with a brand new staff. We like the fact that we get an extra 21 days with them to do all this stuff and help them have a life experience that many of them might not ever get to do again."
After a brief break once the spring season ended and the semester concluded, the team got back together for practices leading up to the trip.
"The girls have come back really refreshed," McRoberts said. "The three week break from the last time we were on the court helped us mentally. This week has been one of the better, if not the best weeks we've had since I've been here. It's very encouraging. They've caught on to a lot of what we taught all spring. Now, they understand the system a lot more. They've been very coachable this week. They have done a good job of trying to do what we have asked them to do."
For rising senior Marie-Pierre Bakima, this trip will not be her first to Europe, as she hails from Paris. She has family in Milan and has visited them before. Bakima is excited about going back to Europe and taking her volleyball family with her.
"They are going to love it," said Bakima very enthusiastically. "It's going to be different for them, because a lot of them have never been abroad. It will be neat for them to see another part of the world and a different culture."
Bakima talked about some of the differences they will experience, besides the obvious one of the language barrier.
"The food is so good. Not everyone speaks English, so communication will be difficult at times. I have family in Milan and they are coming to watch us. I am pretty excited," she concluded.
Rachael McLamore, a Texas native who will also be a senior this fall, said she had traveled to Guatemala on a mission trip before, but has never been to Europe.
"I am so excited to see Prague, and all the architecture and history that Mapie has been telling us about. I am also looking forward to playing volleyball against some of the national teams. Competition in Europe is a lot different; they have a different style of play. I am looking forward to seeing how our team competes."
As a new coach, McRoberts likes the opportunity this trip will give him and his staff to see the team in action again as they prepare for their first season together.
"The competitions will help us evaluate the team in a match environment that you can't simulate in practice. Even though the matches don't count, we get to see players play in pressure situations, how they react in these type situations and who steps up. The more experiences we can have like this, it allows us to make smarter choices as we go forward in putting players in positions to be successful and help the team be successful."
This will be a new experience for everyone involved spending 10 days together on and off the courts.
"It's going to be a growing experience for us," McLamore said. "It will help our team bond and grow closer together. "We haven't spent that much time together at once playing volleyball and traveling, so this will be good for us to get to know each other better as players and with the new staff.
"I don't know if I'll ever have this opportunity again. "To be able to go experience other cultures and see another part of the world and play the sport that I love is a win-win situation."
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