June 2, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - For 11 days in June, Northern Illinois Huskies Ray Gooden and Mary Kurisch will represent the United States in Brazil as the two will compete on the volleyball Bring It Promotions/USA Development Team with matches against the Brazilian Youth and National Teams as well some select professional squads.
With Gooden being one of the coaches heading the team and Kurisch being one of middle blockers, the Huskies are fortunate to be part of the select few that were chosen to take advantage of this great opportunity.
"It's always an honor to be able to be selected for various programs under the USA Volleyball umbrella," said NIU head coach Gooden, who is also the local coordinator for the Federation Internationale de Volleyball World League that has competed in the Chicago area for the past three years. "This program is one link in the USA Volleyball National Team chain, where players are identified and given experience to potentially compete on the USA A-1 Team. We've had success with former Huskies being involved with the BIP/USA Development Team, so it's nice for someone like Mary to not only have been considered, but to be able to be selected for the team."
"I was really excited to hear about it, and surprised," said Kurisch. "You hear about people doing things like this and think it'd be cool. I'm really happy I was selected and can't believe how close it's getting until we leave. It's going to be really fun, I'm excited."
The BIP/USA Team will begin with two days in Itatiba, where it will train for a day and play on the next. Then the group will head to Sao Paulo for four days, competing on the first day, taking in a soccer match on the second, and playing again on each of the last two days. For the next three days, they will be in Saquarema, home of the Brazilian National Team Training Center, where the team will compete each day and catch another soccer game on the final afternoon.
"Brazil has had a long standing tradition of being one of the top programs in the world," Gooden said. "They are currently the number one women's team in the world. It's the USA's intention to compete and train against the very best."
"It's exciting that they want us to come there to play against them," said Kurisch. "Because they have such a good program, it's an honor that they want us to go over there. Playing against their style will be different and it should be a great experience for us."
To wrap the trip, the group will spend the final two days in Rio de Janeiro, spending free time at Zona Sul, the main tourist area of the city that features beaches, malls, and museums. In Rio, they will also see the Pao de Azucar, a sugar loaf-looking mountain, and take a city tour.
"For me personally, it's going to be a blast because not only will I get to coach some of the better players in the country, I'll be traveling to one of the best volleyball countries in the world," said Gooden.
"It's a really good opportunity because I feel like I would have never gone to Brazil on a normal vacation," Kurisch said. "So on those last two days, I'm really excited to hang out with the girls, get to know them a little better, and share the experience together."
For Gooden, the trip will mark his seventh overseas coaching opportunity in his eight years as a Huskie. Traveling to Europe three times, Japan twice, and once to Argentina and Guatemala has given Gooden the advantage of staying globally informed about the game of volleyball and has allowed him to broaden the horizon of Northern Illinois University.
"I think that these types of trips most definitely keep me fresh and keep me current in the world of volleyball," said Gooden. "The greatest thing for me is I am not only representing myself, but I'm representing Northern Illinois University. Hopefully, I will get to expose people down there to Northern Illinois University. Anytime that we can help develop ourselves like this it stays true to our mission of developing champions."
As one of the youngest players on a team full of 18-22-year-old collegiate women's volleyball players around the country, Kurisch will cap her freshman year with the chance to gain valuable offseason experience with her first trip overseas.
"I always think that these experiences are so valuable," said Gooden. "One part, she's going to get a chance to play 10 more days, six to eight more matches of volleyball, against good competition. In the big picture, she gets to do something that very few people are able to do. We are excited for her to have the opportunity to do this. I think she'll do a great job representing the Northern Illinois University Huskies."
"Being one of the younger girls on the team means a lot," the LaCrosse, Wis. native said. "Obviously most of them have more experience than me and I'm excited to learn from and play with them. Hopefully, I can keep up. I think they will be helpful and it will be a great opportunity for me to get better."
Stay tuned to NIUHuskies.com during June for updates on the Huskies' Brazilian experience with Kurisch's upcoming blog entries from the trip.