July 7, 2016

BLOG: Taylor Hughes Across the Pond

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July 7, 2016

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U.S. COLLEGIATE NATIONAL TEAM EUROPE TOUR
Taylor Hughes and the U.S. Collegiate National Team is competing in Italy and Croatia July 7-14, taking on an Italian Federation Team the first three days before heading to Pula, Croatia for the Global Challenge (July 11-14) wrapping up the trip. Hughes will be sending back daily updates, giving Buckeye Nation an insider’s look at her international experience.

DAY 9

Today is the final day of the European Global Challenge and your USA team is still undefeated!!! We all woke up ready to go and ate breakfast by 8 a.m. in order to get to cliff jumping in time before the major sun hits. When we got to the park it was about a 10-minute drive through the park to the highest cliffs. We then had to hike with our towels through the rocks.

Cliff jumping

There were different heights or cliffs you could jump off 70, 55, 35, or 20 feet. You never know when you’ll get to jump off a cliff into the sea in Croatia again so why not go for the big one first? A couple girls & I jumped off the highest one and it was an amazing feeling. (hitting the water kinda hurt our butts but nothing major 😊). Once everyone jumped, we followed the tour guide leader to a cove. You have to swim under a rock that is about five feet long. He went first to make sure we all made it through without coming up too early and once you were on the other side it was a big cave that was beautiful. The rocks had so much quartz in them. The view in there was something I’ll never forget.

Sand bar

After all the jumping and seeing the coves, we then went to the “sand bar” that had a restaurant, swings, slides and many toys. The best part about this sand bar is that it was all inside a little hillside with the roof consisting of trees and brush from the top. After this we all stopped to get ice cream and looked at a few little shops before heading back to the hotel for the championship match at 7!! I sat in the sun for a bit then took a three-hour nap to wake up in time for dinner with the Chinese Team. The match was a close one and a really good game. Team USA came out on top in four sets!!! It was an awesome feeling to see how far this team has come in just little over a week. 😊

Pool party

After the awards ceremonies and pictures we headed back to the hotel because there was a pool party. Every team and coach was in the same hotel, the party was for all of us, and it was the most fun I’ve had in awhile!! We had the Chinese National Team to come down with us and have fun too!! Today was an amazing day because as much as the focus was on the championship match, it was more about the friendships and memories we created today. 😊 Tomorrow we head to Venice, Italy to sightsee all day!!!

DAY 8
Taylor Hughes – #10

Just like before we had two matches today. Since our first match wasn’t till 12:30 p.m., we slept in a little before heading to breakfast. We played an Italian team first and won in straight sets in the quarterfinals. With this win it sent us to semifinals against a team from Slovenia. With that match not starting until 8:30 p.m., we went back to the hotel to swim and lay out for a little bit with the coaches and players from other teams. It was nice to talk to them and get to know their lifestyle. After a couple hours we went inside to nap again before our last match. The match against the Slovenians has been my favorite thus far. It was an intense one and very close. It went to five sets, but Team USA came out in the fifth set to win, 15-11, and move on to the championship tomorrow night. We’ll be playing China tomorrow night at 7 p.m. [1 p.m. eastern time; watch the live video stream here]

Also, we’ve been told that tomorrow morning we’ll be going cliff jumping!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Tomorrow should be a great day and hopefully USA comes out on top!!

DAY 7
We played two matches again today!! In the morning we woke up, had breakfast at the hotel, and went straight the gym to get ready for our match against China. We won two-sets-to-one and took second in our group overall. Since our next game wasn’t until 8:30 p.m., we got a break until 7:30 when we met to walk over.

During this break our whole team went to the same spot on the rocks as we did yesterday. It was nice to cool off in the ocean and hangout without playing volleyball, just getting to know each other more. After we were out there for a couple hours we decided to go back and rest up for the first match of bracket play. We were playing an Italian Junior Team and in bracket play it is best 3 out of 5. We beat them in three straight sets.

We celebrated afterwards with some ice cream on the walk back to the hotel! We then did a little bit of laundry and homework and headed to bed. We should be playing two matches again tomorrow and hopefully everything goes well!! 😊

DAY 6
Today was full of volleyball and fun!!

Our first match was in the morning at 10 a.m. against Team Russia. We beat them in all three sets, but they were all very close. After this we walked back to the hotel, which is about a six-minute walk, and ate lunch. Since our next game wasn’t until 7 at night we were allowed to be outside in the sun for a max of two hours. About half of the team headed down the walkway from our hotel to the beach. The view was amazing and the water was clear!

Rock jumping

Beautiful Pula

We had a heads up about not stepping on the sea urchins, so we decided to walk past the beach onto the rocks to jump off and then climb up a ladder back onto the rocks. We were outside the whole two hours and had so much fun! After this we all took a nap to get ready for our second match against the England National Team. We beat them two-sets-to-one. In the first part of this tournament each team plays three sets no matter what, but we did get the ‘W.’ 😊 Set-wise Team USA is 5-1 and we play China tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to see who wins the ‘group’.

DAY 5
Today was a very long day of traveling! First we went to the Milan train station, which was very big and not a typical American train station. It was Harry Potter-looking. 😊 We rode on one train for about two hours then switched to get on another train which took us to Slovenia where we then bused to Pula, Croatia. Passing the border from Slovenia to Croatia was a hard task and they were very thorough. It took about an hour.

Hanging with Team China at the Opening Ceremonies

Upon arriving in Pula, we received our room assignments and headed to the Global Challenge Opening Ceremonies. At the Opening Ceremonies every team, was announced and mingled with each other before competition. Once your team name was announced you headed on stage with your flag to take a picture.

Pula Arena

We then had 50 minutes to explore downtown Pula before the buses took us back to the hotel. We decided to head to the Pula Arena and take pictures. We wrapped up the day by playing a few games of ‘What Are the Odds?” Overall, today was amazing and we were able to see a lot of the land while on the train and buses. Excited to start match play in the morning! Go Bucks! 😊

Pula after the Opening Ceremonies

DAY 4
Duomo di Milano

Today was a lot of fun! Our coach gave us the morning training off, so right after breakfast we headed down to rent bikes again and bike to downtown Mlilan. We visited the Duomo di Milano again! For lunch a couple girls and I ate at a place called Pena which was an outdoor restaurant on the streets which is right in front of the Duomo. We had a pretty nice view. 😋 Once again the pizza was unlike any other, we had a margarita and a four-cheese pizza.

Mall ceiling

We then walked around the mall and explored all the shops. they varied from being very nice, like Mercedes, to normal stores, like Adidas. It was a very nice mall with a beautiful ceiling! (see above) On our way back we were too tired to walk back and decided to get our first cab together. Driving here is at your own risk so you have to be a little forceful, as we learned in the cab.

We played a ‘friendly’ match against the Italian Junior National Team at 6 pm. We played five sets total and lost 2-3. It was nice to start playing matches rather than training and practicing. Before the match we took a team photo in honor of finally getting our jerseys! (above) The girls are extremely nice and friendly. They live at the complex in the Summer, so I’m sure they enjoyed company and hanging out. After the match we exchanged some of our T-shirts for their T-shirts. Two Italians now have an OSU volleyball shirt!

Tomorrow we have a long day of travel to Croatia, but very excited. Milan was a beautiful city with a really cool and young vibe. 💃 There was always something going on in the streets of downtown, whether it was performers, music, or talent shows. The food was also good in the city, big pasta and pizza city but that’s not a surprise. 😄 Milan was amazing and I’m sure Croatia will not be anything less, especially since I heard out hotel was on the beach. 😎

DAY 3
Another day full of volleyball!!! Today was basically the same as before! We woke up and had breakfast at the training complex at 9 a.m. before heading straight to practice at 9:30. We went over a few things we noticed the night before while playing with the Italian National Team. While practice went fast it was still hotter than ever with there being no air conditioning.

Taylor Hughes – #10

After practice we headed to lunch and once again had free time on our own. During this time a couple girls and I headed down to the supermarket. They don’t take supper lightly as this was the biggest grocery store I’ve been in. After seeing how long the lines were I attempted the self-checkout in Italian language … when in doubt use Google translate! After making it through the self-checkout the doors are automatic, but you have to scan the receipt to get out. So what happens if you do not buy anything? A question I don’t know if I’ll ever get the answer to. 😒 After the supermarket trip we decided to walk back to nap before our second practice, but we passed an Italian pizza place called Alice. You can’t come to Italy and not get pizza, right? Right, because it was an amazing two slices of pizza. Once we got back we took a little nap then headed to the gym to play ‘6v6’ against the Italian National Team.

It wasn’t an official match but we played twice, enough for two rotations with different people! Most of us were drenched in sweat when we ended around 8:30 p.m. and headed straight to dinner. After dinner we got washed up and decided that gelato was deserved. While walking to a place we saw earlier we noticed things were closing and once we got to the place we knew it was close and it was only 9:30! Once again Google came in handy and we found a gelato store that was open.

Gelato

It was nice to walk and see the night scenery in Milan!! The ice cream was very cooling and also tasted delicious. Tomorrow we will play a real match versus the junior Italian National Team and I’m very excited to start competition!!😁

DAY 2
Today was a day full of volleyball. We all went to breakfast well-rested after finally sleeping from Tuesday’s departure. We started with our first practice in the Junior Italian National Team’s gym, not your typical gym you’d see in America. This gym had a lot of windows and doors to the outside (lost count of how many balls we had to chase down from rolling outside) and there wasn’t much spectator seating, so the fans typically stand and cheer.

Arco Della Pace

After practice we went straight to lunch and then had free time until our second practice at 5! During this time we were on our own, so a couple girls decided to rent bikes and head back to downtown Milan. We saw the Arco Della Pace which was beautiful and on the other side of this picture is concrete seating you would see at an open theatre. After this we just biked around for an hour, by the time we found a mall it was time to head back. I’m sure we’ll all see the mall soon. 😉 Before our second practice we took this picture outside waiting for other teammates & this is when we got everyone’s number and social media accounts of course. 😊

Our second practice was with the Junior Italian National Team, Today it was just a friendly match while the next few days will be competition. Seeing their style of volleyball was an amazing experience, how the players connect, the coaches coach and watching their interactions with one another was very different. Although they were all still in high school, they were very, very good with lots of skill and also very friendly. We all thought their accents were cute and I wondered if they thought the same about us. Day 2 was nice because we’re more acclimated with the time change and our surroundings. I’m sure there’s plenty more to see and learn! 😊

DAY 1
I knew this would be a good trip when three coaches and four teammates all boarded the plane to an empty cabin and had our own row to stretch and sleep. Upon arriving in Milan the weather was beautiful, no clouds or wind … just all sun. ☀️ We had a little drive to the training complex and on the drive I realized there were no skyscrapers or any tall ‘business-looking’ buildings. We got to the complex and headed to our first practice .

Before our first practice we decided to take a fun team photo first, which turned out pretty well considering it was on a self-timer. Practice was a good showing of what different talents from different conferences can bring to the table when combined.

After practice we headed to downtown Milan. We rented bikes right outside our training complex and biked from 4-8 p.m. exploring the city and trying not to run over any pigeons, or kids. 😂

Sforza Castle

This was my favorite place of the day!!! Sforza Castle. We were able to ride our bikes through the castle and see all the unique designs on the walls. All around this castle was green space that is now a park.

Cathedral in downtown Milan

Lastly, here’s a photo from the heart of downtown Milan. The cathedral is the center of the city, looking at this building was mesmerizing and noticing all the detail. Surrounding this building was fancy restaurants, hotels, and shopping malls. With Italy being a famous fashion city you would expect to see stores like Gucci, Versace, Prada, etc. A few of the girls and I found a room in the basement of Prada to rest our legs for 20-25 minutes. 😄 The restraunts and food here have been very good. It’s your typical Italian food but with better flavors and spices, it’s own uniqueness. Overall, Day 1 has been very long but a big success!! 😊