By BRANDEE BRITT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two weeks, four countries, and a lifetime full of memories.
The University of Iowa volleyball team experienced new cultural norms, food, architecture, and volleyball on its European Tour from May 24-June 6 where the Hawkeyes explored Germany, Netherlands, Poland, and Ireland.
“Our entire team and staff are so thankful for the opportunity to travel, compete, and sightsee in Europe for two weeks,” said UI head coach Bond Shymansky. “It was an adventure of a lifetime and a fantastic team-building opportunity.”
The Hawkeyes spent the first leg of the tour in Cologne, Germany, where they saw and climbed to the top of the breathe-taking Cologne Cathedral. After a short bus trip to the Netherlands, Iowa was welcomed by Peelpush — a high-level Netherlands club team.
“It was fun to play the international teams and try to figure out how the international style of play is different than ours,” said junior Annika Olsen. “It was also fun to talk to the other girls. We got the chance to get to know them a little bit and make connections across the ocean.”
Following a few days in the Netherlands and a match against the Belgium National Team, the Hawkeyes hopped on a flight for a three-day stay in Ostrowiec, Poland. Iowa received a warm welcome from its host — Ostrowiec Professional — and even got the opportunity to practice alongside of the team.
“We experienced a different style of volleyball and played against some top-level teams,” said Shymansky. “It forced us to respond to challenges beyond our comfort zone and required resilience and fortitude to remain unified.”
The Hawkeyes swept a pair of matches with Ostrowiec, before gaining perspective with a tour of Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the city of Krakow.
“Seeing Auschwitz was an experience I am going to remember for the rest of my life,” said junior Lauren Brobst. “The tour gave us a lot of perspective, and even though it was difficult to see at times, I couldn’t be more grateful for the people that made the tour possible for our team.”
The Hawkeyes spent the last leg of the tour in Berlin, Germany, where they explored the city for three days and played a pair of matches against KSC Berlin — a German professional team. A long layover in Ireland gave the Hawkeyes the opportunity to explore the city of Dublin for a few hours before making the trek back to the United States.
With the European Tour behind them, the Hawkeyes are thankful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel the world.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this trip has made our team closer, our minds stronger and more appreciative, our game more experienced, and our hearts happier,” said sophomore Molly Kelly. “Thank- you to everyone who made this unforgettable trip possible.”
“This trip allowed us to get to know each other better as people,” said Shymansky. “We give a special thanks to Bud and Georgia Johnson for their contributions to the trip, and for their rugged ability to keep up with our break-neck pace. In all, it was a life-changing experience and I am so glad I got to share it with so many wonderful people.”
The Hawkeyes open the 2016 season at the NIU Invitational on Aug. 27.