BLOGGIN' FROM CROATIA

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NIU volleyball players Alexis Gonzalez and Lauren Zielinski are competing with Bring It Promotions at the 2013 European Global Challenge in Pula, Croatia. As a member of Team BIP, the Huskie duo will go up against some of the best players from Italy, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and the Czech Republic. Additionally, both Gonzalez and Zielinski will get sight-seeing opportunities in Venice, Italy, and Lake Bled, Slovenia. As a part of their adventures, Gonzalez will be providing updates from Europe on the pair's experiences.

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ENTRY #1 - Friday, July 12
Allo America! Today we played against the Slovenian Junior National Team and lost 3-2. Although we lost, Z racked up a ton of aces and I even got some blocks! FINALLY! After that, we went to Lake Bled, which is two hours away from Maribor. Lake Bled was beautiful, filled with lots of green trees, a castle on top of the hill, and a church in the middle of the lake. I participated in swimming and boy what a workout that was! I swam while the group walked alongside the sidewalk and was haulin' butt! (Adam would be proud). Tomorrow we have a match against the Hungarian Junior National Team and then we play two sets against the Czech Republic. GO BIP!

ENTRY #2 - Saturday, July 13
Today we started off the day with a two hour practice in preparation for our long day of play. We first played the Hungarian Junior National Team and beat them in straight sets! They felt as though that wasn't enough volleyball and wanted to play a fourth to 15 (which we also won). We then played two sets against the Czech Republic Junior National Team and bet them as well. Six straight sets we won today! Our team played very relaxed and comfortable throughout the whole day. The energy was great, creating a fun atmosphere and making it easier to get the wins we wanted. Naps were needed by all. BIP!

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ENTRY #3 - Sunday, July 14
Today we took a dreadful six and half hour bus ride (it was supposed to be four hours) with no A/C packed with three teams. No seat was left unseated!   Luckily when we got to Pula the Mediterranean Sea was awaiting us. We got to swim in the beautiful clear, blue, refreshing water, as we passed the time until opening ceremony. Before opening ceremony we were able to walk around and see all the sites that this 3,000 year old city had to offer. Opening ceremony was fun as all teams were introduced. To introduce each team, they would play a song that represented each team/country and then that team would go up to take a picture. When our team song came on another USA team went up and took our spot. They were showing pictures of our team and everything! They continued to go on with the ceremony until we proclaimed that we had not gone up yet. Our song was "In Da Club" by 50 cent...we're not sure why.

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ENTRY #4 - Monday, July 15
Today was the first day of game play and we have hit the ground running!! The way it works here is that you play three games no matter what with each team and you get a point for every game you win. We played Hungary this morning and beat them in three straight! Right off the bat we have three points. Then later we played Italy and beat them 2-1. Two more points! Our record is 5-1 thanks to Zs aces!! Were trying to teach the team to shimmy after every ace. It's slowly growing. I swear Z had like six aces today and I am actually blocking balls and playing defense!! You hear that Ray!? Z also had some great ups that came out of no where but boy was I glad they were up. Tonight, we got to rest up because our first game is at 10:30 tomorrow morning with our second game following at 8:30 PM! Go BIP!

ENTRY #5 - Tuesday, July 16
Today was the second day of the tournament and we started it off by playing the Slovenian Club team. We didn't come out as strong as wed like and lost 2-1. We gathered ourselves and prepared for our later match. With me having a concussion I was not game ready. Our outside hitter Melissa Rigo from Stony Brook University stepped in as our backup and ran the show just fine! The whole team stepped up in every aspect (even Z digging balls in middle back) to help us win the game 3-0 against the Czech Republic! Meanwhile, I was sitting on the bench the whole time with the darkest sunglasses and headphones to block out bright lights and loud noises. Our first match tomorrow is at noon against Falconara Italy to start playoffs. Lets go get 'em!

ENTRY #6 - Wednesday, July 17
Greetings from Croatia! This morning was the start of playoffs and we played Falconara Italy, a team we'd beaten 
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before 2-1. Sadly we lost in four, but Z was taking charge in the front row! No ball was left unblocked and no set was left unkilled! She was an ANIMAL! I was a proud mama :) The rest of the day we chilled by the sea and in the pool and then watched our new friends on the USA team play the BIP Continental team. USA lost 3-1 in a close battle. Tomorrow we play Vasas for 5th place at 10:00. Lets kill that court!

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