European Vacation: Slovakian Shocker In Hungary

Hungary - May 31, 2007

Asia Kaczor

From my homeland of Poland, we loaded up into two vans and a car and headed to the lovely country of Hungary. Because we have become such great travelers so far, the mere nine hour drive was not a problem. No one complained, we actually had a great deal of fun in the vans laughing, telling stories, playing cards, watching movies, singing and dancing and getting to know things about our teammates that we never knew before.

Van #1 was (trainer) Sue (Lerner), (assistant coach) Todd (Dagenais), Katelyn (Bishop), Marta (Siemiatkowska), Bethany (Johansen), Diane (Copenhagen) and our trip coordinator Cory got to know each other better by playing the game 'conversation starters'. Van #2 was called the party van with me, (assistant coach) Cookie Stevens, (director of volleyball operations) Nikki (Allen), Kelli (Tennant), Alli (Hillgren), Taylor (Carico) and Jessica (Gysin). During the trip we fantasized about the coming days of Italian pizzerias and discotechques that we will be coming up upon soon.

The trip was quicker than I thought it would be, but a trip wouldn't be a trip without getting lost at least once right? Of course this region of the country has gone through so many political changes over the last few years. Slovenia is one of the countries that is really starting to modernize with new road systems...unfortunately the old signs are still in place!!! Even though we took a quick detour, we were still enjoyed the BEAUTIFUL mountain scenery and farmlands along the way. The vast green hillsides and well-kept proper gardens were some of the most natural and peaceful areas we have been so fortunate to encounter on our trip to the countries so far.

We also got to see centuries old castles whose remains are still standing tall in a picturesque state. We saw many of the wonderful sites as we went from Poland to Slovenia and then finally to Hungary. Once in Hungary, we arrived in a small town (at least our hosts called it that) of about 80,000 called Szombathely where we got settled into the Claudius Hotel. We were greeted with a delicious dinner of chicken noodle soup, chicken and rice, and a delicious cheesecake for dessert.

At this point it was about 6:20 p.m. and we had a scrimmage with Hungary at 7:00. As you can imagine it's not easy to play to play after so many hours of travel. However, we put our best effort into the match and did some very nice things against a talented Hungary team. We will have to see how it goes when we play them for real in two days.

After the scrimmage we headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest since our tournament starts tomorrow. Hello to everyone in the USA and reading around the world!


Match Recap: USC stuns Slovakia National Team with 3-0 sweep

Heading into the 32nd Annual Savaria Cup tournament, the Slovakian National Team was the odds-on favorite to finish on the top rung of the medal stand. They entered the tournament as one of 16 teams who are qualified for the 2007 European Championships in September. USC was entered as an entry only two days ago into the tournament that traditionally features only national teams, but the Women of Troy shocked the partisan crowd and the tournament organizers with a spectacular 3-0 victory (25-23, 25-21, 25-16) which was broadcasted on national television in Hungary and Slovakia.

'We originally scheduled this tournament as a `ghost team' where we would play all of the other teams, but those matches would not count in the overall standings,' said USC head coach Mick Haley. 'Then we were given a fantastic opportunity to compete in this historic tournament when Slovenia had to cancel. As far as we can tell, only one non-national team has ever competed in the tournament's 32 year history. We set up our entire trip so that these three days would be volleyball only and now I'm glad we scheduled it that way.'

'We have seen things that most people only get to read about in text book or watch in the movies,' said Haley. 'The experience at Auschwitz bonded our team in a way that couldn't be achieved doing even the finest team building activities. The Polish people and our Polish players were so excited to show us the Salt Mines of Wieliczka, something that's considered a national treasure in Poland. With all of that behind us, today was the first day where we could actually settle down and leave the `tourist side' of our trip behind us and focus on the competition part of the trip.'

USC trailed the better part of game one and were down 16-13 at the 2nd technical timeout. Slovakia maintained the lead up to 22 before USC closed with a flurry of service points to edge past the Slovakians 25-23.

'This first game was a turning point in the development of this team,' said Haley. 'We have had difficulty closing games down the stretch and it was nice to see our execution sharpen after the 20-point mark.'

Game 2 saw USC breaking out to a modest three point lead and maintaining it until the Slovakians closed the gap to 21-20, forcing a USC timeout. The Women of Troy immediately answered with a quick side out, a service ace, a second first ball side out and service point to ice the game at 25-21. With Bethany Johansen starting game three on the serve, USC raced out to a 5-0 lead then pushed it to 8-1 at the first technical break. Once again, the Slovakians closed the gap that ranged from eight to 10 points most of the set down to seven points at 22-15. USC again responded with an immediate side out and then cruised to the 25-16 finale.

'I thought that everyone played very well tonight,' said senior outside hitter Diane Copenhagen. 'It was nice for all of us to put many of the things together that we have been working on all spring and in preparation for this trip. Slovakia runs a very fast offense with great execution. We knew that could pose a problem for us and knew we had to serve them as tough as possible. Once we started hitting, our serves we were able to control how fast they ran their offense.'

Jessica Gysin had her best match of the tour scoring 11 kills on 18 swings for a .556 clip to pace the Women of Troy. Asia Kaczor contributed 10 kills and hit .368. Johansen and Katelyn Bishop chipped in four and five kills respectively while Copenhagen finished with seven kills.

The Women of Troy will continue their play in the Savaria Cup tomorrow when they take on Hungary at 7:00pm local time. Hungary easily defeated Sweden in the nightcap 3-0. The USA National Team participated and won the Savaria Cup in 1983. Since then National Team powerhouses such as Brazil, Cuba, China, and Russia have all been invited and participated in the tournament.

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