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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Volleyball bonds on foreign tour in Europe

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

While most students were two weeks into summer vacation, the Marquette women’s volleyball team was traveling around Europe.

The team departed from Chicago June 2, landing in Milan, and working its way along the French Riviera to end the trip in Barcelona June 14.

“Our foreign tour really brought us closer as a team, being together for two weeks straight in a foreign country,” senior outside hitter Allie Barber said. “For a couple people, it was our first time out of the country, and you kind of go out of your comfort zone. I think we all relied on each other a lot more.”

Due to NCAA rules, each sport is only allowed to go on a foreign tour every four years. Despite taking a European tour in 2016 to Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic, the NCAA granted Marquette a waiver so seniors Barber, Madeline Mosher and Lauren Speckman, who were affected by previous summer enrollment rules, could travel in 2019.

Head coach Ryan Theis said a big advantage was the two weeks of training the team had before leaving.

This year was also the first time newcomers could go on the tour. The new NCAA rules allow teams to bring their incoming freshmen and any transfers on trips without completion of summer classes.

“Our two transfers were eligible to train for (the tour), and then our two freshmen got to go. They actually got here the morning before we left,” Theis said. “For them, it was great to know everybody. The team went out of their way to make sure those guys felt welcome.”

Theis said the team split up into different groups every day, so the freshmen could spend time with everyone. Then, when the freshmen showed up for summer school July 5, the newcomers already knew everything that was going on.

“That part was huge for them, from a team culture and chemistry standpoint,” Theis said.

Marquette practiced at the Italian Olympic Training Center prior to playing the Italian National “B” Team June 4. The next day, the Golden Eagles faced the Italian Under-20 National Team. Theis said the U20 team is one of the best under-20 teams in the world. Less than a week after playing Marquette, the Italian U20 National Team finished as runner-ups in the 2019 Federation Internationale de Volleyball Volleyball Women’s U20 World Championship.

“(They) just could do things at a whole different level,” Theis said. “Those (Italian) teams would be in the Final Four here. To play them in their gym, their ball, their environment was a handful. That makes you a little bit tougher.”

“The foreign tour was definitely up and down, just being different volleyball,” junior outside hitter Hope Werch said. “They play a lot different than we do and that expanded our game. It allowed us to be able to support each other when things weren’t going right.”

Against the Italian teams, Theis said seeing the quicker pace at which the Italians played helped his team get experience that will be helpful when playing elite teams in the NCAA Tournament.

“Their libero set it fast when they secondary set (the ball), so Martha (Konovodoff) wanted to start trying to set faster and see if she could up her game and her tempo,” Theis said.

The team had an overnight stop in Acqui Terme, Italy, to play B1 Team Acqui Terme June 6 and then traveled to Montpellier and Toulouse, France. The final match was June 12 against Club Voleboil Sant Cugat in Barcelona.

“We saw things we had never seen before and aren’t legal in the U.S.,” Werch said. “I definitely think with us pushing through that, it definitely helps in our preseason.”

Following Marquette’s four-set victory over then-No. 9 Brigham Young University Saturday, the Golden Eagles reached their highest rank in program history Monday at No. 11. Marquette has three ranked teams left to play in the nonconference season, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 5 Illinois and No. 17 Baylor. Theis said he hopes the foreign tour will help his team fight against the tough competition.

“We bonded through playing some really tough teams and having to overcome those mental challenges,” Barber said. “Hopefully that comes through in the season.”

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