UWF volleyball relishes European trip

Members of the UWF volleyball team in front of the main square in Trieste, Italy.(Photo: Photo courtesy of UWF athletics) Halfway across the globe, Autumn Duyn stared at a one-time experience. She was on a cliff in Pula, Croatia.

The Adriatic Sea, part of the Mediterranean, was inviting a jump about 50 feet below. Well, of course, she had to take the leap. Safely, too. No rocks or danger. Just water. A couple other teammates from the University of West Florida volleyball team were also bold.

So awesome, said Duyn, the Argos senior outside hitter, recalling one of her favorite memories. The water wasn t too cold, either. It was amazing to say you did that. A summation, of sorts, for the entire experience. The Argos, who open their season at home in a five-team tournament that begins Friday, had quite the European Vacation. They visited five countries in early August: Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia.

They played five teams, all club professional squads. They practiced in non-air conditioned gyms. They learned to adjust to the international game with its different-size ball and style of play. They won three games against teams from Italy and Hungary, lost a pair to a team from Slovenia. I ve done several of these kind of trips (for summer competition) and the thing that makes or breaks it is who you go with, said UWF coach Melissa Wolter, who begins her 13th season at UWF. We had people (freshmen) on that trip that I had hardly spent any time with.

We learned more about where we are. We encountered some difficult times and that was important. It was phenomenal. All the better, it was earned. The players raised money, about $45,000 through a variety of efforts, to fund the trip. They began the quest a year ago.

In the spring, they spent most weekends out raising money for their journey. They attracted new boosters, new fans to help make it happen. I think it was just the most incredible experience I have ever had in my life, Duyn said. To think you can say that I went and traveled the world with 15 of my best friends. Duyn is from Venice … the town in southwest Florida, not the more famous one that is a world destination. But she got to visit Venice, Italy and compete in that area. It was just how you would expect it. The city is absolutely beautiful, she said.

The canals, the waterways, everything about it. The food, too, of course. The pasta, the Gelato that Italy is famous for serving.

We decided a year ago this was going to be the returning group that we wanted to take on this trip, Wolter said. I sat down with the girls and we planned it all out. This was not a trip where they got to just get on a plane and have somebody else foot the bill. They worked for it. Parents chipped in to help with plane tickets. The ground costs we raised together. We had new boosters step up and every fundraising event we did we had people coming out of the woodwork to help. There were immediate adjustments. Like the first practice after the long plane flight.

The gym s owner was setting up the court. Air conditioning? Forget it. The windows were high. The sunlight was in players eyes. We missed the ball a few times, said sophomore Monique St. Cyr, laughing. That was different, for sure. We had to adapt to different environments and different situations.

I think the play of the game is a lot different so it was great to see something we have not seen in a long time. But they learned new countries, new culture, new experiences. They learned, for example, that you can t just walk into a public establishment and use the bathroom. Not without paying, first. You have to carry Euros all the time, Duyn said. They went from country to country by bus and passport. Border patrol was officials coming on the bus and stamping passports. They were ready for anything. Our kids really took their summer training seriously, said Wolter, whose team returns 13 players.

They were in phenomenal shape before they got here. So those 10 days we trained here (at UWF), we hit the ground running. We had no injuries … everybody was on top of their games. The Argos are now set to play four games in two days in the Hampton Inn-Vitational Tournament at the UWF Field House. They will face two nationally ranked teams, including No.

3 ranked Southwest Minnesota State on Friday. Our preseason was different than any we ve had, Wolter said. All in a good way.

UWF Volleyball Relishes European Trip

Members of UWF volleyball team outside Parliment in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: Photo courtesy of UWF athletics)

WANT TO GO? WHAT: UWF Hampton Inn-Vitational Tournament WHO: Missouri-St. Louis vs. UWF; Southwest Minnesota State vs. UWF

WHEN: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday, then 2 more games involving UWF on Saturday.

WHERE: UWF Field House TICKETS: $5 general admission, $3 seniors/military/non-college students, UWF students admitted free. NOTEWORTHY: Two teams in tournament field are ranked in Top 25 in NCAA Division II.

Southwest Minnesota State is No.

3; Arkansas-Fort Smith is No.

21.

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