WVU Volleyball #EuroBlog Follow the Mountaineers through Italy, Slovenia & Croatia

A postcard from Coach Rudnick ...

"This was my first experience going on a foreign tour with a team, and it far exceeded my expectations. It was the perfect combination of competing against talented teams, seeing amazing sights in each country and experiencing each culture. My favorite part was meeting and playing in front of Natania’s family and friends in Croatia. WVU Volleyball is truly a family, and we are so supported each time we compete in the US. It was special to see this extend into our matches in Croatia, as Natania’s family and friends attended the matches, made us all of their favorite foods, and even sung us “Country Roads” in Croatian."

- Asst. Coach Becky Rudnick

A postcard from Coach Sunahara ...

"One of my favorite days in Europe was our trip to Lake Como, because it was beautiful and breathtaking. Our time in Pula was another highlight. It had everything we needed - a hotel with great views and a great beach and cliff jumping."

- Coach Sunahara

A postcard from Gabi ...

My favorite part aboutthe trip was the variety of experiences we had in every one of our destinations. There were some days where we were more of tourists, and there were other days where we enjoyed the daily life of a European. The things we did were amazing and I was lucky enough to do them with my best friends

- Gabi Cuckovich

A postcard from Morgan ...

My favorite part of the trip was experiencing new adventures with the girls. Interacting with the people in Natania's hometown was a humbling experience - to be able to see the support we have even in another country and how proud her town is of her! The trip was a blessing!

- Morgan Montgomery

A postcard from Taylor ...

Seeing that this was my first international trip, I could not be more grateful that I got to experience it with the WVU volleyball program. Every day was jam packed with activities, so it's hard to choose a favorite when every day was awesome. If I had to choose one, I guess it would have to be Croatia. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, the warm welcome from Natania's family and friends was extremely humbling and fulfilling, and the food was great!

- Taylor Cross

Recap - Hannah Shreve

Hello, everyone! I'm Hannah Shreve (known as “Slim” to my teammates) and I get the honor of closing out the blog posts about WVU Volleyball’s overseas adventure. For those that don’t already know, I was fortunate to participate in the European trip although my days an athlete of the team are officially over.

Our final day was a long one with just over 24 hours spent on the move. We ate breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Hotel Marina in Izola, Slovenia then headed to our bus to drive to the airport in Venice. We arrived around 10 a.m. and parted ways with our guide TK. We had time to kill and spare euros to spend, so most of us did some small shopping and purchased food before our flight departed in the afternoon.

After many hours of sitting in terminals and airline seats, we were on a bus bound for Morgantown from the Pittsburgh airport (a very familiar routine to all of us). We arrived in Morgantown around 1:30 a.m., greeted by a downpour of rain.

Rather than recount the movies and shows we all watched during the travel day, I’ll take a look back on the past days of the trip.

First, the team did a great job of recounting the daily experiences through their own eyes via the blog postings! For specific details on our outings, I suggest reading those posts. From my perspective as a “grandma” of the team, I must say it was special to see how all of the girls bonded on the trip. We were often given the freedom to roam areas and find our own meals to eat. Where most large groups (there were twelve of us) would end up splintering off to explore different areas, this group preferred to stick together for meals as much as possible. In my experience, it's rare to have a team connect like that both on and off the court.

Speaking of the court, the games were a great growth exercise for the team. The matches introduced different styles of competition and tested the ability to refocus on a match after a day filled with other activities (a skill that I think comes only through repeated experience/practice). I thought it was especially interesting to see the various environments that European teams are accustomed to being in for practice and competitions. Personally, I was amazed to see the Hotel Dras in Maribor, Slovenia. It was a hotel with gyms and a weight room immediately connected to it! I can only imagine volleyball being popular enough to warrant such an establishment in America.

As for the activities that filled our days off the court, there is no way I would be able to choose a favorite. I loved every opportunity we were given, from biking around Milan to zip lining in Natania’s hometown and everything in between. The top of the list of coolest experiences would include cliff jumping in Croatia and riding the alpine slide in Maribor. Trying to describe the best meals would require an entirely separate list. I will certainly miss the continent of great carbs and gelato.

Additionally, it was a special treat to see that the song “Country Roads” is a familiar tune in both Croatia and Slovenia. We may not have understood the words of the other versions, but we could identify with the feeling. As a native West Virginian, I was especially proud to hear the tune and be reminded of West by God while being an ocean away.

I could go on and on about how this trip was amazing from all sorts of different angles, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll leave it at this: it was a trip of a lifetime, no cliche intended. I want to thank every single person that helped make this trip possible, from donors to administration. From my “grandma” perspective, I already know it helped set the program up for success in the upcoming season. Arguably more important (in my opinion), it absolutely provided a blessing of a journey in our lives as individuals. We were introduced to brand new areas and cultures. We had a glimpse of how much bigger the world is outside of the small bubble that we inhabit and in which we form regular routines. The memories we made we can keep for the rest of our lives. For me, it was an especially sweet transition into life as an alumna. I’ll treasure this extra time I was given to be a Mountaineer as I join the ranks of supporters from the stands and behind the scenes. I look forward to seeing how the program continues to build!

Thanks again to all involved for the memories and, as always, Let's Go Mountaineers!

-Slim

Day 11 - Natania Levak

Hello my wonderful people! 🌼 This is your favorite foreigner Nati checking in (with a very humble opening line). You probably already know the last destination was Pazin - my hometown, so who else would blog about this day and write a closure to this whole trip 🙋🏼

I'm going skip right to the interesting part of today's activities because I know y'all want to read only about the goodies. 😉 We went zip lining over a canyon in Pazin called Pazinska Jama 🙌🏽 I'm glad no one was too scared to try it out. Afterall, this whole trip was full of first-time experiences, from trying new food to cliff jumping, and I'm sure everyone had so much fun doing all that and overcoming their fear of heights. I got some brave teammates and staff members y'all, better watch out! 😝💪🏽🤙🏽

The next thing on our schedule was a game against the club team ŽOK Pazin, where I started playing volleyball 👶🏼🏐 Literally my whole family was there which made the W even sweeter! That was so special because usually my parents are the only ones who stay up really late to watch our season games online because of the 6 hour time difference (shout out to them for that 🙏🏽). But surprisingly my family wasn't the majority of the crowd, there was a good amount of people that came to watch us so the atmosphere was awesome 🤘🏽

After the game we had typical Istrian dinner with everyone who came to watch the game, the team we played against and my family of course. 😍😋 If you know me, you'll know that I'm a huuuge foodie and that I love me some good healthy food so trust me, Croatian food is BOMB 🤤 The dinner was also a great opportunity for me to say my last goodbyes to the team before they left for summer break (So sad. I miss everyone already!!)

It was so great for us to see what playing against older and more experienced players is like. It was definitely a very positive learning experience and I think it definitely helped us improve on the court and bond as a team. I'm excited, and I'm sure y'all are as well, to see where next season is going to take us. 😁😁

Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to say THANK YOU to everyone who made this trip possible because I had the time of my life with the best team I could wish for. 🙏🏽 I feel blessed that I could share a part of my world with them and everyone who's been following us throughout this whole journey because just showing pictures and videos doesn't really cut it 👎🏽😝 I hope everyone enjoyed this as much as I did because I had a BLAST!! 🙌🏽 Once again, sending a huge thank you and a huuuge hug to everyone. See y'all in a month when we start our preps for the upcoming 2017 season woohooooo 🤙🏽

Natania Levak - out. 🎤⬇️

Day 10 - Cassidy Zang

Ciao! My name is Cassidy Zang and I am the sophomore student manager. At the games you can find me on the end of the bench with the computer coding and keeping stats. Today I will be leading you through one of the final days of our international tour!

8:30 AM- Breakfast time! Today we were lucky enough to be able to sleep in an extra hour and have a later breakfast. Today's buffet was especially impressive with omelettes, eggs, waffles, pancakes, meat, and vegetables as well as a variety of fruit, pastries, cereal, yogurt, and juices.

9:00 AM- Off we go to the first stop of the day: CLIFF JUMPING! Prepping for today's adventure, GG deleted and shared pictures from our GoPro to make room for the jumps. Excitement levels were high as the anticipation mounted. I am now accepting bets on whether or not everyone is still this excited when we are actually up there. 😉

9:45 AM- We made it to paradise! Cliff jumping was incredible. The view was incredible. This place is incredible.

As you probably guessed, the excitement quickly turned to fear for many when they saw how high up we were. Personally, I got even more excited and couldn't wait to take the plunge.

The right most point of the cliff is where half of our party gathered the courage to jump.

After jumping into the water, some of the crew ventured into the cave. It is easily the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. There was an opening at the top where light found it's way in, making for some incredible photos. The water was a fairly cold and extremely salty, but the view was worth it. The pictures cannot do the cave justice.

11:45 AM- We started heading back for our 12:30 pick up, but first stopped at the sandbar/playground to pass the time. At every turn was a secret table or swing.

The books and journals we (incorrectly) thought we were going to read and write in.

12:50 PM- GELATO!! I can't think of a more perfect snack for a post cliff jumping cool down. I have now had gelato from each country we have been to at least twice. I regret nothing.

2:00 PM- After a much needed shower, we headed back down to the dining area for lunch. Today's options included spaghetti with a tomato or meat sauce, steak, shark, mixed veggies, french fries, vegetable or chicken soup, and a salad and fruit bar.

4:15 PM- We unfortunately had to leave one of our tour guides, Sarah, before leaving for the game. While it was sad knowing she wasn't going to be here for the last day and a half, we had a great time with her!

5:05 PM- Sight seeing! We stopped in a little town called Rovinj. As TK said, "It is hard to describe this place. It's just a little town and it's very beautiful." His appraisal did not disappoint.

7:45 PM- Tonight's match was by far the most personal one we have played. Not only was Natania able to play in front of her friends and family, but she got to play against her little sister. It was so cool getting to watch them interact on and off the court. It made it an especially fun win!

10:00 PM- Dinner tonight was at a quaint restaurant that is owned by a former member of the team we played. The woman was also a member of the Youth National Team here in Croatia and went ok to play professionally in Italy. There was an assortment of pasta and pizza. All of it was delicious.

Today has been phenomenal. We started off with an terrific view and new experiences and ended it with a win and great food. This trip has been amazing. I am so appreciate of my opportunity to be here. I have gained so many experiences I will never forget. Ciao from Croatia!

Day Nine - Emma Anderson

Ciao...Good morning! My name is Emma Anderson. I am a transfer setter from the University of South Alabama. I am so excited to be here on this trip and to be a Mountaineer!

Today we woke up and had breakfast at the hotel in Bled, Slovenia. We are traveling to Pula, Croatia, this morning.

We made it to Croatia at around noon and the weather is absolutely AMAZING! Sunny and 75 with a nice breeze. The beach is walking distance from our hotel and we enjoyed a lovely day at the pool.

We walked down to the beach area and hung out on rocks. A picture cannot show the true beauty of this place!

After the pool and beach we went to the city center in Pula to see the temple and the coliseum. The coliseum is one of the last three standing coliseums in the world. We got dinner at a fun pizza restaurant and enjoyed some gelato after.

After seeing the coliseum we walked down to the sea and watched the sunset behind the mountains!

All in all, it was a beautiful day of sight seeing and enjoying the city of Pula!

Day Eight - Mia Swanegan

At this point, we are a little over halfway done with this trip and so far it has been wonderful! We have learned a few words from each language, thanks to Natania, as well as purchasing way too many souvenirs and pieces of clothing. LOL.

Lake Bled bound!

After an 8:30 a.m. breakfast call, the team and coaching staff, along with our tour guide, boarded a bus to go about two and a half hours from Maribor to Bled to see a wonderful view.

Overall, our day will consist of travel, sightseeing, a match against the Slovenian Junior National Team and of course, dinner later this evening. I am so stoked to see how this day turns out with my friends!

Around 11:15 a.m. we finally arrived and to no surprise, with it being a Saturday, the place was crawling with tourists so the full drive in to the hotel was a little slow. Along the way we did see a "Dinosaurs Are Real" type of exhibit thing, home to the biggest T-Rex in Europe ;). We all agreed that it reminded us of Jurassic Park.. how thrilling! Am I the only one that wishes part of that franchise was real..? I guess one can dream.

11:45 a.m. - time to get on the boat! When we first arrived, my breath was taken away. The view was so stunning. The water was a pretty teal blue. The breeze was perfect and at the opposite end of the lake was a church with a stone bell tower.

Our tour guide Sarah stated that it is a popular place to get married. The tradition is for the groom to carry the bride up the long flight of stairs located along side of church from the bottom of the hill.

The church in the middle of lake Bled was breathtaking and of course there was gelato! Sadly, Morgan dropped her gelato on the ground... major sad face :/. Most of us girls purchased souvenirs and coffee from this cute little shops in hopes of spending the last of our euros before heading to Croatia tomorrow morning. I personally was able to check off the rest of my souvenir list for the fam as well as buying a few extra post cards which ended up being a huge success in my book!

Around 1:30 p.m. we walked over to Vila Prešeren for our pre-game meal before facing a Slovenia club team later in the evening. We ate a three course meal consisting of mushroom soup as a starter, a meat plate with grilled veggies and potatoes for the main meal and finished off with the well know Bled dessert, kremšnite. The rain might have started falling down but we didn't let it get in the way of our day!

After lunch we scurried back to the hotel and gathered our things for the match tonight only to find out that the drive is 40 minutes long!! Although it wasn't what we were expecting, we made the most of it and even got in a little 15 minute power nap.

Success! We beat the Slovenian Junior National team in 3 sets. Overall we had a successful night playing wise and in the end we traded shirts and sang country roads followed by their Slovenian version. Talk about a cool video!!

And if winning wasn't enough, Sarah said we get to have pizza for dinner tonight!! Yay to carbs and yay to a non-meat filled meal, yum!

I cannot wait to see what the last four days hold for us while here in Europe. This has been an experience of a lifetime so far with my best friends and I couldn't wish for it to have gone any other way!

Let's Goooo Mountaineers!

Side note- enjoy this fantastic photo of Beth passing time before our match started! #thatsourstrengthcoach

Day Seven - Katelyn Evans

Good Morrow! I am Katelyn Evans a freshman outside hitter, from Palmdale California. I'll be taking you through our last day in Maribor.

Some of us started the day earlier than others. Gabi woke up two days in a row, at the same time (4:45) to see the sunrise. But the rest of us normal humans woke up later to go down to breakfast which started at 9 a.m. I ate the usual: eggs, croissant and coffee.

After breakfast we went to the town of Maribor to experience the life of a "normal Euro," as Sarah, our tour guide, said. The town was not a touristy town, but it was by far my favorite town. We all did a lot of shopping and the mall was greatly appreciated.

We went to lunch at the hotel we have been playing at for the past couple days. They served a lot of meat and lettuce, which is good for me as I am the team vegetarian.

We had a couple hours to ourselves and then we had to prepare for the match ahead. We played the Austrian National Team. It was a good match with lots of learning opportunities. We won the match 3-1.

To cap off the night we took an extremely winding road, which was kind of terrifying on a huge bus, to Doppler Winery outside of Maribor. When we arrived, we were atop a beautiful mountain, with 360 degree views just in time for sunset. The owner's daughter, Lena, was a third generation female winemaker at just 16 years old. She was very knowledgable about the wine her family has been making for generations. The company was called Doppler because her great-grandfather was held in a concentration camp in Germany called Dachau. He survived the concentration camp and he was released he was 93, but was very ill. When he went to the doctor, the doctor said there was no drug but a glass of red wine a day. One of their best wines is called "Doppler Efekt" because of this.

Thank you for tuning in to today's blog with me!

Sincerely,

Katelyn Evans #17

Day Six - Payton Caffrey

Dobar dan! My name is Payton Caffrey and I am a rising sophomore outside hitter and I will be taking you through Day 6 of our European Tour🇸🇮

We had to be downstairs for breakfast at 8 a.m. We had many options, from a variety of fruit and breads to eggs and meats. Most of the girls just chose coffee☕️. Gabi showed a picture of a lovely sunrise she saw...at 4:45 in the morning🌅. We also learned a few Croatian commercials that consisted of some singing.

After breakfast, we walked to the gym to help start our one hour serve and pass. Before starting, we had a little jam session to get us warmed up and hyped. We were able to work on serving, passing, and rotations. After, we got in a nice long stretch and then walked back to the hotel to clean up and go to lunch.

On our way to lunch, we got to ride up the hill on a chair lift...well, some of us did. Sarah and Beth decided to walk up the hill. When we got to lunch, we were offered a wide variety of vegetables, ćevapčići (meat), french fries, and watermelon.

The only transportation we had down the hill was an alpine slide that consisted of a small cart on a very narrow and rigid track. The track consisted of many twists and turns, the last one being the most exciting. After we all got to the bottom, we were able to relax, drink coffee, and eat some gelato before walking over to the gym ☕️🍧.

We didn't have our best match against the Croatian National Team, but we got the experience that we came for. We were able to learn not only from our mistakes but also from their skills that we had never see before.

For dinner, we got to ride in a gondola up to the restaurant at the top of the mountain. The view from the gondola was so pretty and very high up. When we got to dinner, there was a variety of meats, vegetables, and apricot filled croissants. The croissants were gone within the first five minutes of dinner 🥐

Tune in tomorrow for our next blog and see how our next match goes against the Austrian National Team. This is Payton Caffrey signing out✌🏼❤

Day Five - Morgan Montgomery

Ciao! I'm Morgan, a senior outside/right side hitter and I'll be taking you through DAY 5 of our EuroTrip!

After arriving in Venice late last night, G (Gianna) and I discovered that our room joined with Mia and Taylor's room, which led to a night of laughs reminiscing on the past four days (as well as running around, chasing pesky mosquitos).

We were served a breakfast similar to the ones we had at our previous hotel that consisted of yogurt, hard boiled eggs, cheese, prosciutto and an assortment of bread. Of course, to drink we had the choice of coffee, juice, and water!

"These are croissants are SO good" -G

As G mentioned yesterday, we were all pretty stoked to chill by the pool this morning before heading out for Ljubljana, Slovenia, around noon!

The pool was slightly too warm to be refreshing; however it made jumping right in a breeze. Natania channeled her inner gymnast and practiced her hand stands in the pool while Coach Reed surprised us all with a cannonball.

Mia, Taylor, and Slim (Hannah) used the downtime to reflect in their journals of our amazing trip thus far.

Laying out in the beautiful sun on this 75 degree day was relaxing and just what was needed after the intense walking yesterday through the streets of Venice. Around 11 a.m. we all left and headed up to shower and get ready for our three-hour bus ride as we left Italy behind to begin a new adventure in Slovenia.

I spent the bus ride listening to music and looking out the window, taking in the beautiful, green scenery we passed on our bus ride. I attempted to count the amount of semi-trucks that we passed but lost count around 100. It seemed like every few vehicles there was another one.

We stopped for lunch at a highway "truck stop" which was very different from our version in the United States. We had the choice of a made-to-order pasta dish with choice of vegetables, fruit, salad, protein, and dessert. I chose to have ravioli with tomato sauce and steamed vegetables! We stopped in the shop to buy some chocolate and other sweets for the remainder of the bus ride... don't tell Reed!

We arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia, for some shopping and snacks. I bought an apricot filled croissant and a macchiato for our two-hour bus ride to Maribor and a piece of raspberry cheesecake from Kavarna (known for their delicious cakes) to enjoy tonight after dinner!

Once we made it to Maribor (adopted hometown of Sarah, our fabulous tour guide), we dropped our bags and headed to dinner in the hotel restaurant. A buffet was prepared for us and we dined on fish, potatoes and spinach, meat sauce with spaghetti noodles, mashed potatoes and meatloaf. For dessert we had a bunch fruits and small pastries! It was amazing!

"THIS KIWI IS AMAZING!"- Katelyn Evans

Day Four - Gianna Gotterba

Ciao West Virginia Volleyball fans!

I am Gianna Gotterba and I'm coming up on my senior year at the wild and wonderful West Virginia University.🌻🌞😎

After being in Milan for three solid days, we headed to the absolutely breathtaking city of Venice today. Venice is known for their gondolas (complete with singing gondoliers, Piazza San Marcos, and - don't forget - the notorious gypsies.

Our bus ride was about three hours long, but, as far as I know it seemed, much shorter with all of us watching our downloaded shows from Netflix or resting up from a long dive-set thriller match last night against Busto Arsizio.

Once we realized we were staying in an Italian Resort along the countryside of Italy, we instantly hit the pool just to see what we were in for. Needless to say, we're pretty excited to chill there all day tomorrow.

Once we dropped all our luggage off, we hopped on the bus again and headed to the beautiful city.

"THERE'S THREE NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW. FERRAVIO, REALTO, AND SAN MARCOS," TK, our tour guide, shouted at us.

Our coaches have been pretty cool about letting us go off and do our own thing all trip, so these were all the destinations we needed to remember in order not to get lost in all the alley ways.

"DON'T GET LOST, AND IF YOU DO EITHER LOOK FOR THESE SIGNS OR ASK SOMEONE TO POINT YOU IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION."

Ferravio was the initial meeting spot where we would all get together and hop back on the train to leave.

Realto was right in the middle of the two, also where the famous bridge is that all the movies are in like the Italian Job and James Bond.

San Marcos Square was the final destination where most tourists are along with there famous Duomo (church).

Along the way to all these places, there are endless stores filled with famous colorful Italian glass, knockoff purses and jewelry.

About every 25 steps there is also some man standing in front of his italian restaurant trying anything to get you to come to his place instead of the guy next door's.

We all decided to go to this really yummy Italian restaurant right when we were headed to Realto because we hadn't eaten since 8:30, and by that time it was around 2 p.m.

With our team, if you have a Margarita Pizza on the menu, then we're SET because half the team will order that every time.

Not today though!! The restaurant we went to had all kinds of different pastas- pesto, four cheese gnocchi (which, by the way, tasted like the best queso I've ever had even though that may sound weird) cheese ravioli and lasagna.

After buying all the gifts we wanted for our friends and fam, we decided to try the gondolas out.

It was very relaxing, you know, with their wonderful singing and all. But, don't even think about rocking the boat back and forth, that'll really make them mad. Even if it was an accident....

Luckily none of us were victims of the notorious Italian gypsies/pick-pocketer. I've heard horror stories of them having there innocent little kids distract tourists to grab their things, and they even go as far to cut open a purse with a knife on the metro when tourists are not paying attention.

After spending the hot sunny day venturing all over the city, before we knew it, it was 7:03. We had to be back at Ferravio to meet up with the coaches at 7:30..

Luckily, we were already in Realto because that's where we got on the gondolas, so it was only about at 15 minute walk to Ferravio.

We had to get a to-go version of dinner, so take a guess on what we got.....

That's right, PIZZZZZA :)

A lot of girls on our team are also very experienced coffee drinkers, so they had shots of expresso and the freshly baked chocolate croissants were a must-have on the go as well.

Right now we're currently on the train ride back to our hotel- not sure why we're going 10 mph... but after a long day filled with pics, pizza, and shopping we need the rest LOL.

Tune in to see what other fun activities we'll do during our foreign tour, as we travel to Slovenia tomorrow night! :))

Day Three - Gabi Cuckovich

Lake day and game day? This is so my day to blog.

Today was a day many of us were extra excited for because we were heading to a beautiful area and were going to play our first match of the trip. We ate breakfast at 8 a.m. and left at 8:30 to head to Lake Como. The drive was around 45 minutes and allowed us to see more towns. It wasn't until we were off the bus and walking around until we saw the lake. Turning the corner to see the lake had all of us in awe. Being from the Great Lakes State, you can guess that I've seen a fair share of lakes in my time. Being able to see Lake Como was like nothing I have ever seen.

The town was filled with nice restaurants, fancy shops, and luxurious hotels. George Clooney, Madonna, and Donatella Versace have had or have houses on the lake, so you can imagine how nice the town was.

We rode in a lift to head up the mountain, and the views were breath taking from the bottom to the top (especially for Emma who is terrified of heights). Once we were up, we wandered through the town that consisted of more little restaurants and shops. The further we got, the more houses we saw. These houses were hundreds of years old, but still held such beauty. TK shared with us that if a house needed repair, they would have to get approval from the city, would have to use the same exact materials, and had strict labor laws.

Katelyn, Emma, Payton, and I found Reed and TK while we were walking around, and we joined them on their way to a lookout spot. Being at the lookout was one of the best sights I've ever seen. We spent a good amount of time there trying to capture the beauty, but the pictures don't do it justice.

We made our way back down the mountain to join the rest of the girls for lunch at a restaurant that was close to the water and in the market square. It was a nice meal, even if a small bird kept eating off Cassidy's plate of spaghetti. Before we headed back, several of us stopped at a souvenir shop and, of course, the gelato shop. The ride back is described by the following pics:

When we got back, we ended up having about 3 hours to ourselves before we had to leave for the match. We left at 5pm for the game at 7pm. Warm ups were a little different, so we had to adjust to that. The match was competitive and fun as we took them to 5 sets, and pulled out the win. After the match, we traded tshirts with the Italian girls. It was so cool to see how excited they were to get something West Virginia from us.

After the match, we ate a quick dinner with salad and pizza, and got on our way back to the hotel.

The day was fun and filled with unreal sights, good food, and a W--couldn't get much better than that. Tomorrow, we are excited to be headed to Venice!

Day Two - Taylor Cross

We began the day at 8 a.m. for breakfast in the hotel before heading over to practice. Luckily, we were all able to get some good sleep despite the eight hour time difference. Although it was weird to think that we were beginning our practice at 9 a.m. since that would be 1:00am ET! We got in a solid practice as we continued to prepared for tomorrow's match. After practice, we returned to the hotel to freshen up before we began another exciting day exploring Milan.

We ate lunch at Club Italia's facility again. Today's menu consisted of a wide variety of vegetables, an Alfredo pasta, and pork with gravy. We are still trying to figure out how to pace ourselves while eating since in Italy they serve multiple courses! Once lunch was finished, we returned back to downtown Milan. This trip was different than yesterday as TK led the way on our bike tour through Old and New Milan. As we biked through the streets weaving through the crowds, we got to see more of what the beautiful city had to offer.

Once we arrived, we separated into groups and were able to spend three hours taking in the culture and beautiful architecture. Me, Erin, Mia, Cass, and Slim (Hannah) began our free time exploring a castle. Inside was a huge statue of Napoleon and an open courtyard. We found this door that we thought was pretty so we stopped to take a picture. I think it's safe to say that Erin's talents extend beyond volleyball so don't be shocked if she takes up modeling after her time as a student-athlete!

As we continued to stroll through the streets we walked around many boutiques and shops. We saw an adorable flower shop along the way and stopped to get coffee. When in Italy, gelato is a must! We passed a gelato shop on almost every corner, all of which looked delicious so it was a tough decision deciding on where to eat. The gelato place we decided on was a great decision and it even had TWO chocolate fountains! We can all say that it did not disappoint - in fact, some even got more later (but I won't mention names!).

We shopped around some more until we left for dinner. After walking the streets up and down, we decided on a cute, little pizzaria for dinner. We all had a great time full of laughs as usual. We still had time before we had to return to the hotel so we headed to another gelato shop. Time flew by fast but we all had a great time. Everything that we didn't see the day before we got to see today. Everyone was able to buy clothes in the world's fashion capital and bring home souvenirs.

Today was a great day and we are all thrilled for tomorrow. We are going to the beautiful Lake Corso Como and we get to play in our first international match!! We are going to rest up for tomorrow's festivities, which will be awesome. Stay tuned.

Day One Recap - Erin Slinde

Augustine of Hippo once said, "the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."

We all write our own story.

Yesterday, we embarked on our journey to Europe. All of us have different stories. Some of us have been over seas before, and some of us haven't, but we were all very excited to get out of Morgantown and experience what this trip had to offer.

We left the coliseum at 7 a.m. on Friday. We then took a plane to JFK Airport in New York for a long layover before our flight to Milan, Italy. It was nice to get some American food in our stomachs before we opened it up to the new tastes of Italy.

Our seven and a half hour flight was long. Most of us tried to sleep, but found it very difficult given the amount of space in the large airplane. We all tried to sleep as much as we could before our full day of fun in Milan.

When we landed, we waited in line to go through customs. After, TK helped us on the bus and we are off to our destination.

We got to the hotel, dropped our bags off and got to eat some breakfast before practice.

It took us a while to find the practice facility and the right door to go to, but as Beth, our strength coach, would say, "Andiamo!" whiich means "let's go. Once we got to the right place, we were ready to go.

After practice, we walked to the restaurant where we ate lunch. We had mixed vegetables, pasta and chicken breast.

After we ate, we went back to the hotel to shower and get ready before our bike tour.

We left the hotel and took the bus to the square where we got our bikes. After we all got our bikes, we got to ride around and through the castle. We rode a little further to the main square where we dropped our bikes and got to look around.

We got to shop and some of us got some gelato, which is Italian ice cream. By the time 6:45 came around, we were all ready to have some Italian dinner.

We walked to the restaurant where we had a dinner of rice, salad, mixed vegetables, pasta, and pizza. It was very good.

When we were done with dinner, we rode our bikes back to the square, waited for the bus and went back to the hotel.

All of us were very exhausted by the long first day, but excited and looking forward to the ones to come... after a good night's sleep first.

This trip is just a small chapter in the West Virginia Volleyball story. It's not close to being finished yet, but we are leaving our mark on the program and making many memories along the way.

Mountaineers in Milan!

The Mountaineers have arrived in Milan! After a long night of travel, the team touched down around 8:30 a.m. local time.

After a quick breakfast, the team head to a local training facility for practice. Following their workout, they fueled up with much at the facility, which serves as the home of Club Italia.

A quick change and shower was in order before the team departed for the city center. The Mountaineers got a chance to take in the sights (by bike!) and do some shopping before dinner.

Stay tuned for Erin Slinde's complete recap of Day No. 1 in Europe!

Mountaineers to Embark on International Tour

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (May 9, 2017) – The West Virginia University volleyball team will travel to Italy, Slovenia and Croatia from May 12-24 for the program’s first international tour under coach Reed Sunahara.

“This is a great opportunity for our program and we are incredibly thankful for the school and our supporters for making this a possibility,” Sunahara said. “This will be a great learning experience for our players. We’re looking forward to playing, taking in the sights and learning about these cultures. This is a great way to showcase our program on the international level and will only help us grow.”

WVU will depart from Pittsburgh International Airport on Friday, May 12. Following a layover in New York, the Mountaineers arrive at Milan–Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy, the morning of Saturday, May 13. The team will stay in Milan until May 15, playing a pair of matches against the Italian Federation Development team, Club Italia. WVU will travel to Venice on May 16 for sightseeing opportunities.

From May 17-19, the Mountaineers will be stationed in Maribor, Slovenia. The squad will travel to Trieste, Italy, and Ljubljana, Slovenia, to take in the sights. On May 18-19, they will play a pair of matches against national teams from Slovenia, Croatia or Austria.

West Virginia will take on the Slovenian U18 National Team in Bled on May 20. Most recently, the team qualified for the World Championships in Argentina.

Rising sophomore Natania Levak will face her former club, the Croatian U18/U20 team when WVU travels to Istra, Croatia, on May 21 and 22. From there, the Mountaineers head to Koper, Slovenia, for the day on May 23.

“The opportunity to play at home means a lot to me, and I look forward to my teammates joining me for a few days to build new memories and experiences. The trip is a great opportunity for us to improve on the court and bond as a team. Honestly, I don’t know a better place on this planet to do that,” Levak said. “My friends and family are excited to meet all the people I call my family away from home.”

The team will return to Venice on May 24 before traveling back to the U.S.

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