Ready, set… on the road again! Back to the extremely long trips to the other side of the pond. Sleep deprivation, questionable amounts of legroom, and multiple Starbucks while it’s still around: we’re getting used to it. After Grand Prix we had a few weeks off to regroup and refocus at home with family and friends. We came back to Winnipeg for just under 3 weeks of training before heading out. Super focused practices and individuals and weight sessions were the goal in order to get us ready for competition. The week before we left was probably one of the busiest and most stressful of the summer. Leading up to that, girls were fighting to gain a traveling spot which always consumes a lot of energy and emotion at the best of times. Many of us have professional contracts lined up and will be staying in Europe after World Championships so therefore, are not coming back to Winnipeg. As a result, we had to fully pack up our lives for the next year overseas (in 2 suitcases) and pack up our entire house / put everything in boxes and storage. Throw in all the little errands you have to do before any little or large trip and you have a fairly stressful week. We were all just waiting to get on that plane and reduce the stress just a bit. Our flight over was okay... we had a bit of time in Toronto to devour as many pumpkin spice lattes as humanly possible (the last Starbucks of the year?!) and had a larger delay in Rome... but we just napped on the floor.
We have been in Maribor, Slovenia this past week training hard to prepare for World Championships. Our team got a few friendly matches under our belt, which was really awesome. Off the plane, we played Croatia the following day and split 2-2 with them. We have never played this team before and I was really impressed how we came out – it’s really exciting that we’re performing well against these European teams that we’re facing for the first time. Our sports physiologist and trainer, Daryl, is here to make sure that we’re “dialed in” every single day. Every single stretch. Every single movement. He’s asking for maximal effort so he’s a really awesome asset to have with us, especially as we get ripped here in Maribor in the weight room, in-between trainings. We’ve been working super hard this past week, pushing 2-a-days, exhibition matches, and weights, in order to make sure we’re peaking for this upcoming week. We are staying in the Habakuk Hotel, which is so great… it’s only a hop, skip and a jump from the Dras Center, which has a café, hotel, 2 volleyball courts, mini soccer turf, and a weight room. The other day we had a few hours before dinner so majority of our team hit the ski hill slopes…. Nope, no snow. But in the summer and fall it’s converted to some form of individualized bumper car cart thing, where you could control the speed down the mountain. The cart was connected to a track so you weren’t free to bump all over the place, however the small seatbelt strap holding you in still didn’t make me feel as safe as could be. Jenny-cakes ended up catching up to Britt, even though the people working at the top made sure you were at least a third of the way down the course. I guess Jenn was accelerating the entire time and Britt was being a bit more on the safe side? She definitely got going though when Jenn started screaming behind her! Really so much fun… doing little things like that take your head outside of volleyball for a small moment and enjoy wherever you are in the world. We see A LOT of hotels, and a lot of gyms and stadiums, so when given the opportunity to explore the city we’re in, many of us leap at that chance.
Friday came along and we played Mexico in the evening, after a morning practice. We’ve played this team so much the last few years but it’s still good game experience – regardless of who you’re playing, there are always lessons to be learned. We won 3-1 in our friendly and played pretty consistent throughout the entire match. The next morning we played our NORCECA rivals, Dominican Republic. Over the years we’ve definitely come closer and closer to this powerhouse team. In our first set we were leading until the very, very end of the set and ended up losing 25-23. We let it get away from us a little bit in the middle of the second set but came back in the third and ended up winning. Overall, we lost to them 3-1 but we’re definitely there. I’m excited to play them when it counts and take them by surprise. It also gives me so much hope for the future when this is going to be one of the tougher teams we need to take down in order to qualify for the Olympics. We’re making big strides and it’s so exciting to see.
Took a little bus/van back to Trieste, Italy and we have a couple days to train before World Championships begin! I cannot believe how flipping fast this summer has gone; it feels like last month we were in Ontario qualifying for this tournament and it’s finally here! I really want to see our team just GO for it! Our goal is to make it into the second round and will have to solidify two wins at least for that to happen. Cameroon and Bulgaria are our main targets but who knows what could happen in the games we really push back. This sport is so awesome because anyone and everyone could have a bad day, or a great day, and it’s never for sure who’s going to have the success in the end. We can push all of these teams and I really hope we just go in to this tournament swinging hard and playing with a lot of passion!