The men’s volleyball team had a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” over the winter break.
That’s what the team’s head coach, Dan Ota said after he took the team on a volleyball trip to Europe over the break.
“I think this is the kind of trip that (the players) are going to talk amongst themselves for 10 to 20 years at least,” says Ota.
From Dec. 26 to Jan. 4, the team traveled to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Each country served a different purpose. The Tigers played in a tournament in Assen, Netherlands, did sightseeing in Bruges, Belgium, practiced in a professional facility in Duren, Germany and played against a tier two team in Bocholt, Germany.
“I think our team is going to benefit from this, being a little more game ready for our second half of the season,” says Ota.
This is the first time in Ota’s 20 years coaching the Tigers that he took the team to Europe. He got the idea four years ago when the team went to Florida to play exhibition games. He thought it would be great to do that again but in Europe. He expressed the idea to the team last year, and they started to fundraise for the trip. They raised about half of their expenses and the members of the team paid for the rest themselves.
The first part of their trip was in Assen. Dal played against athletes Ota estimates to be between the ages of early twenties to early fifties. The first day was grueling as they played six two-set games in one day. The Tigers were at the gym from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. They had three wins and three losses.
Fourth-year, Matthew Woods, said he hasn’t played that many games in one day since high school.
“You definitely had to know how to take care of your body, you have to stretch and drink lots of water,” said Woods who played in five out of the six games. “Being able to play against guys our age and maybe little bit older challenged us to see where they’re at in relationship to us as a team. It definitely pushed us, and we pushed them.”
The next day, they played in the semi-finals against former pro players and lost. They ended up finishing fourth in the tournament.
Their next stop was in Belgium; this was more of a tourist experience than volleyball one.
“All I really knew growing up was Canada, so I didn’t really know what else was out there,” said Woods. “Being able to experience Europe, the rich culture and the history around it was really eye-opening for me.”
“Hopefully I can add a trip in the near future to go back and explore new countries,” Woods adds.
On Jan. 2, they trained at the facility home to a German top professional team called SWD Powervolley Duren. After the Tigers’ training session, the pro team was practicing, but they were short a few players. They asked Woods, Graham Schmuland and Malachy Shannon to practice with them.
“That was a really eye-opening experience for me,” said Woods. “ Being able to see that next level of competition, what it really takes to play at that level was a hugely beneficial experience for me and the other guys.”
Finally, they went to Bocholt, Germany where they scrimmaged against a tier two team called TuB Bocholt.
Woods hopes that future teams can get a chance to do this trip.
“Hopefully this trip happens again in the near future for the guys because it was hugely beneficial to experience this kind of play and was great for our team. I think we really grew as a team.”