Aug. 5, 1997
Nelson's Account of the Volleyball Team's Summer Trip
The 1997 Texas Tech volleyball team traveled to Italy to prepare for the upcoming season, compete against some of Italy's toughest teams and tour the sites. Fifteen Texas Tech volleyball student-athletes, along with three coaches Jeff Nelson, Nancy Todd and Mike Lessinger along with other staff members, made the two-week voyage to Europe. Destinations and stops included Pisa, Rome, Venice, Milan, London, Florence and other cities and towns in Italy. Competition was tough as the Red Raiders played some challenging teams along the way. The Raiders struggled, but then turned it around toward the end of the trip. Said Texas Tech head coach Jeff Nelson of the trip: "The trip helped us immensely in terms of court time and maturity. I think that will help us down the road. We learned more about each other and how to accept the other people on the team- being together so long in a foreign atmosphere. The teams we played against were very good. We were challenged to do some things we'd never done before." The following is head coach Jeff Nelson's account of the trip:
All the packing and preparations are done and we were ready to go. We met at Lubbock Airport at 9 a.m. and everything went without problems. We flew from Houston to London in the upper deck of a 747.
London was different, people from all over the world. From London, we flew to Milano, Italy. When we touched down, we met Laurel outside of customs are were ready to go. We boarded the bus and met our driver John Carlos and hit the road for Pisa.. The busride from Milano to Pisa was incredible. Upon arrival at our hotel in Pisa, we are psyched- the Leaning Tower is literally 100 yards from our hotel! We found out that we will play tomorrow in Rome- probably not good, but we'll make the best of it.
We were off on a four-hour busride to Roma at 9 a.m. as mostly everyone got some sleep. As we drive into Rome, everyone is very excited- I can't believe we're in Rome! We check into the hotel after being lost a few times and get settled. At 5:30, we must leave to play- the trip goes fast and we arrive at the gym. The coach is there to greet us and the match is more like a scrimmage than a game. We have a very bad case of jet lag and we can't do anything right, but it got better as we went along. The team we're playing is very good and has advanced to A level. We lose four straight and can only manage 10 points in a game. Laurel is a great tour guide and gets us tickets to a Volleyball World League match between Italia and Yugoslavia for the next day.
We leave the hotel at 9 a.m. and went to the Coliseum- it is so old and huge. Mike, Laurel, Imelda, Nancy and I head to the Forum. It was the most incredible place ever with so much history and we did the walking tour for two hours. From there, we ate lunch at an outside cafe- the food was great- and headed on down to see some other monuments, forums, statues and then up to see the Circis Maximus. After this, we got on the bus and headed to the match. As we drove up to the arena, we were excited to see a large crowd. The arena was packed (15,000-20,000) and sold out. The crowd was into it and definitely knew the game. Italy won 3-1. The crowd was nuts screaming "I-tal-ia" and doing the wave. They cheered and booed (whistled) and were extremely passionate about their pride for the eam. I have yet to see anything like that in our country.
We began the day with practice and then headed straight over to the Trevi Fountain. The story goes if you sit by the fountain and throw a coin over your shoulder, you will return to Roma. All of us did it. We all went to the Pantheon and the Piazza Navonna. Both were fantastic!
Today is our last full day in Roma and we headed to the Vatican for an early start to avoid the lines. Guess what? Too late! We arrive to see the longest line ever- two blocks. The line moves fast and soon we are walking through the Vatican- tons of paintings and different niches of the church and popes. The guard keeps shushing the crowd. Then we take the bus to St. Peters Square- huge. As we walk up to St. Peters, we see Sonia, Courtney and Angela who have been kicked out because their skirts are too short. We try to get them in again and not only are they kicked out, but Laurel and Nancy are too! Finally Laurel and Nancy sneak in with a group and we have Courtney wear Nancy's sweatpants in. The guards hate us but we are persistent and friendly. We examine everything in the church and then head below to the chapels and tombs. It is so weird to walk through all the pope's tombs and know many of them are there. Many of us decided to go to the top of the dome, which was 400 steep stairs away. From the top, you can see all of Rome, once you wipe the sweat off your eyes. Kristen was propositioned for marriage by an Italian guy. He bugged her for 40 minutes! Tonight, we dined in the hills above Roma- a place where the pope eats. The place is even better than I imagined. Dinner was expensive but well worth it.
Today, we departed for Florence as everyone is in great spirits but very tired. We stopped at a few villages along the way. Upon arrival, we get checked in headed out to dinner.
Today we cut loose for a full day of shopping in Fierenza. We went to the market and to see a few sights. In the evening, we played a two matches in a small town outside of Florence called Prato. The teams were good and we split matches. I felt we should have won both but we blew a huge lead. I let Nancy and Mike coach a game and they did a good job.
We all met at 10:00 and went to see the Statue of David together. After we turned everyone loose for another day of shopping, Nancy, Mike and I roam for awhile. Everyone compared riches at dinner. The girls really spent some bucks today but are excited with their purchases. Florence has tons of leather shops and everyone buys purses, backpacks or wallets.
Our first stop was Rapallo on the Mediterranean Sea. The city is very unique and charming. We will take a boat to Portofino as we purchase our tickets and wait. Finally the boat comes and we get stuck boarding behind a zillion Deutsch seniors. The ride out is great, with beautiful sights on the water. The waters are choppy and Mike, Courtney, Pam and Imelda get soaked- they were on the wrong side. Portofino is really something- aqua crystal clear waters. After a few hours in Portofino, we head over to Santa Marqante to catch the train to Camaglia. Camaglia is where Laurel lived when she played professionally here. It is a great little fishing village with a neat little beach. After that, we took a train to Genova to do some sightseeing.
Everyone gets up and grabs a quick breakfast before we head off to check out some Asics gear that a local dealer has. I found a new jersey to order for our team. I hope we get them as they are great and will be different from the other teams in the USA. After the Asics stop, we went to the train station where we will catch a train to the beach for the afternoon. Everybody got a ton of sun and some swimming in. We all headed to a restaurant for dinner. Janelle, Kristen and Kim bought some posters from a street vendor. A great night, however getting back on the bus that late was interesting as there were some strange people in the station. On the way back, the girls start singing camp songs on the bus and entertaining others.
We got a good breakfast and boarded the bus to go play the Genova team. The gym is very nice- the best one we've played in so far. We get a good warm-up and seemed ready to play. However, our start is slow and we lose game one, 13-15. This is a wake-up call and we win four straight after that. After we exchanged gifts, thank yous and pose for photos together, we joined their staff and friends for a great lunch. It is at lunch where I first get to talk to Maycha- Laurel's friend from Peru who lives in Modena now. Maycha set for Peru and was a silver medalist in Montreal (1976). She drove down with her husband to see the game and visit with Laurel. Getting to visit with her was great. She is the kind of person you want to be friends with. Of course, my girls don't have a clue about her until she is gone. They need to learn more about people, history and culture. Visiting with Maycha and Laurel was a learning experience for me. What respect I have for them and all they've done.
I'm losing track of the time. The trip is getting long and some girls are a bit crabby here and there. Today, we leave for Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet. When we get to Verona, we are staying the Hotel Maxim. This is the best hotel yet and we are excited to have such a nice place. We head off to the old area of Verona to see the beautiful outdoor opera arena and visit Juliet's house. The place reeks of Shakespeare.
We depart Verona very early to get to Venezia and spend a full day. Venice doesn't look like much driving in, but is a great surprise. We took a boat into Piazza San Marcos. It is really neat. Mike and Nancy and I do a gondola ride as did several of the other players. It is relaxing and fun. Our driver speaks some English and shows us where Marco Polo lived and also Casanova. Nancy and Mike got some Big Macs and loved them. Many of the girls bought gifts and treasures to take home today. Venice and Rome are my favorites for different reasons. Rome has history and so much to see. Venice is on the water and a place like no other. After we met and took the boat back to where our bus was, we headed back to our hotel outside of Venice. Tomorrow, we will play teams from Northern Italy and Russia (Kazichistan).
Today was very relaxing. We are currently at the Park Hotel and it is very nice. At about 12:00 it was time to start getting ready for departure to our evening matches. Lunch was great and we departed on the bus for Vicenza where we think we are playing. Upon arrival in Vicenza, the players from the Basica team board our bus and we go on to another village to play. All in all, a long trip. However, the players are nice and it is fun to listen to them. They range from 16-26 in age and they are all on an A-2 level team and are clearly better than all we have played prior to this. Upon arrival, we are quick to learn that Janelle left her jersey back at the hotel. Jill is a sport about trading off with her. The first game is a blow-out and we are humiliated. The second game lasts a little longer but we are very quickly down 2-0. In game three, we start to battle and end up winning 17-16. I'm glad to get a game against a really good team. The fourth game is not so good and we end up losing 3-1. The team we played gave us some beautiful gifts- wallets and purses along with a bouquet of flowers for the captain and a nice trophy to remember the day. They also took us to dinner and showed us their city. The Kazichistan team decided they were too tired to play so we didn't get to play them.
On to Milano after packing for the zillionth time. I think everyone is seeing the trip will end soon and maybe lightening up a bit. The busride fr-om Venezia to Milano went smoothly as many of us played cards or listened to music. Milano has so much graffiti, it is unreal- no respect for property or the great old buildings. The hotel is another good one and we unload and get in quick. We made plans for dinner and the staff heads to the Mitro (subway) and the Duomo (center). The Duomo is one of the best churches and is absolutely amazing. It has the best stained glass windows of all we have seen and it is also more like a church than a museum. We went back to meet the players and take them to their restaurante to eat. The coaching staff heads to a different restaurant where Laurel knows the owners through a friend. We proceed to devour an eight course meal that is fantastic! Dinner is followed by great desserts. The food was the best and all of us ate way too much. Tomorrow, we will sightsee and play a match at 8:30 p.m. It is also our last day in Italy.
Everyone spends the morning together as we head off to see the painting of the last supper. It is really nice, but very faded and hard to see. After this, we split up for some shopping and to get gifts for our driver and guide. At 6:30 we depart for our match, that we think starts at 8:30. Warm-ups start at 8:30, the match at 9:00, so we sit for awhile. Tonight, we played our best match of the tour and won very decisively, 3-0. The volleyball teams we have played have been good and the experience is great for our players. Thanks Italia! After the game, we dine at an American owned restaurant and bar. The place was great and the place to be seen. There were many American models there.
We are up early and head back to the airport in Milan. Everyone gets their passports checked and board the plane to London. When we arrive in London, we head directly to the hotel- which is fantastic. After putting our bags in our room, the team meets in the lobby and goes over options for London. It is great to be where people speak English again! The coaching staff decides on shopping at Harrod's, a tour bus ride, Picadilly Circus, Dinner in Chinatown and a play at the theatre district. We saw Smokey Joe's Cafe, and it was excellent. After all this, we caught the subway back to the hotel- it is about 1 a.m.- a very full day. I really thought London was great!
We board the plane to go home! Lubbock never sounded so good. Everything goes smoothly at customs in Houston and all treasures are intact. In Lubbock everyone departs tired but glad to be home with memories for a lifetime.