Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Silver Lining

Well, the grind did not go as well as planned. We lost a head to head match with the team we were tied for fourth place with in a five set screamer. We had a few chances to seal the deal, but choked in crunch time and have since settled at fifth place in the league. That being said, I don't feel like my team has underachieved. The league in Denmark is extremely divided with the top four teams carrying four or five American professionals, and the bottom three teams composed purely of Danish amateur players. Being that we only have one professional player and this team was nearly bumped to a lower league last season, 5th place is actually slightly above where we were predicted to finish.

I am disappointed we won't have a chance to compete in play-offs but I'm making an effort to keep my glass half full. My coach has been working with me in defense and serve receive for the past few weeks and for our last eight matches or so I will be a four-or-five-rotation part of the serve receive--an opportunity rarely, if ever, afforded to a middle blocker. I've also been playing a lot of right side, increasing my versatility as a player and making me more marketable for next season.

Aside from the technical stuff, I would have to say the silver lining of this gray cloud would be that my team no longer feels any pressure and its making playing with them much more enjoyable. Since we are not competing in play-offs, we must participate in play-outs. In play-outs, the bottom four teams play each other twice, then the two bottom finishers from that tournament are at risk of moving down a league. Because we competed well in the first half of the season, we have put ourselves in a nearly untouchable position in play-outs, giving us the ability to relax and enjoy the last few weeks of the season. We had a Fastelavns practice this past week, which is sort of the Danish version of halloween. Check out my Facebook page for more pictures of our costumes and festivities after practice :)

Still more optimistic, is my free time to travel now that our season ends in mid-April. I will be taking a trip to Germany after the season ends, and potentially a few more places when my dad visits at the end of April. I look forward to showing him how I have lived for the past seven months and helping him tap into his inner European. Expect many more pictures in the coming weeks!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mid-grind update

Well, its mid-February and I'm pleased to say we are still in the running for play-offs. I am not pleased to say that we haven't exactly made it an easy run for ourselves. We did end up beating Fredriksburg very convincingly in 3 sets, but went on to lose to Fortuna in 4 sets and Lyngby in 3 sets. Lyngby was one of our "sure wins" and losing so severely really hurt the advantage we had over 5th place team Vordingborg. We currently sit at 1-3 in the final round and we need to end up at least 4-4.
 The next few weeks will be very tough but I'm reassured that we can do it by the team's effort last night. We had a tough match against Brondby, the 1st place team in the league. We haven't beaten them yet this season and they have 5 very capable Americans on the team. The girls fought hard for every point and had a few things gone a little differently, I think we could have taken that match. We have today at practice to work out a few kinks, then we play again tomorrow afternoon against Skobbakken at home. I would have originally labeled Skobbakken as a "sure win", but since it looks like anything can happen in this league, I've decided to take every set of every match one point at a time.
Updates on other aspects of life in Copenhagen will have to wait; this is the grind people.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Grind

Many things have developed in the last two weeks. In our last home match against Holte, Dodi hurt her knee in the first set, which ended up being an ACL tear. She has a long road to recovery ahead of her and I wish her all the best. Unfortunately, this could not come at a worse time because we have the last round of regular season play coming up and we need to come out at least 4-4 to qualify for play-offs, 5-3 to get a sure spot.
Holger has made a few line-up changes to try and cover Dodi's former position. Simone, a very young player on the team, has taken over the second outside position where Stine used to be. Stine has been moved to Dodi's first outside position where she will have the chance to score a lot of points. I have been moved to right side, in order to create a sturdy block and score some more points in our out of system offense, and Vibeke, a very strong middle that recently came back from having a baby, is taking my old spot. I think these will be positive changes if we all work very hard to perform our new jobs. I am both excited and nervous to play a new position. I really enjoy playing all six rotations but having new responsibilities is quite a test of my discipline as well as my physical capabilities.
We start our expedition with this new line up this Saturday against Fredriksburg. We are 1-1with Fredriksburg and we play them at home. There are three teams that we "should beat" in this final round, and I consider Fredriksburg one of them. This weekend will be a huge test for us and I am excited to see how the girls respond to that test.
Six of our last eight matches are in February. Henceforth, February will be known as "the grind". We've got to concentrate and get through it and come out on the other side at least .500. Wish us luck, and stay tuned for the results :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's been a while

So, over a month has passed since my last entry, but to be honest not much has changed. We finished out the first half of the season with a couple bad losses, and I was out for a week with an achilles sprain in December. We are currently ranked third in the league, but I personally believe that with a little discipline and one or two upsets, we can end up in the top two when this is all said and done. December was rather boring for me, probably because I was just on autopilot for the last few weeks until I could go home for Christmas.
Christmas in the states was glorious. I ate Mexican food whenever possible, and home-cooked food when ever Mexican was not readily available. There is not Mexican food in Denmark, or none that tastes anything like Chipotle at least. I didn't even give myself a chance to get hungry at home--I'm not even kidding.
It was great to spend time with family and friends and I even made a few Danish holiday dishes for them to enjoy. My favorite part was making people try salte fisk, which are salty licorice candies that the Danes love for reasons beyond my comprehension. I think they are disgusting, and I took way too much pleasure in watching every American's face when they tried one for the first time. My grandpa actually liked them though, so I left the remaining fisks with him. 
I jetted over to Chicago to spend New Year's Eve with my long lost college teammates and I'm still recovering from the nights of excess that ensued. It's a good thing college only lasted four years because separately we are all reasonable ladies, but when put together we are a hilarious yet dangerous entourage of ridiculousness and any more time together would have killed me. 
So now I'm back in Copenhagen and I have a few things to look forward to. I start Danish classes next Monday so I will probably pick up enough Danish to get by just in time to go home. Additionally, I'm making a trip to Germany on our long weekend in late January and I look forward to doing some traveling. 
We play Vordingborg, the fourth place team, this Saturday in our new red jerseys. Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Day

     With Thanksgiving being an American holiday, I had all but accepted that I wouldn't be gorging myself with delicious home made food until my friend from work, Stella, decided she would be the patron saint of Turkey day and prepare the meal all on her own. Stella is Danish, but her grandfather was born and raised in the U.S. and brought the tradition back with him, so she invited me and another American friend (who was also coincidentally from Ohio) to join in the festivities.
     Stella prepared an amazing meal complete with all the fixin's that rivaled with my own mother's cooking. She made a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin, and cooked a 5 kilo. turkey for four people--classic American. After dinner we tried to stuff all the leftovers into her refrigerator, which was obviously not made to accommodate Thanksgiving feasts, and as long as she doesn't get sick of turkey sandwiches and cold mashed potatoes, she won't have to go to the grocery store for another week.
     After dinner Bobby, the other American guest, invited us all to go out to the night club he works at for some beverages. We agree and head downtown, spending a good bit of the night in a small pub just enjoying each other's conversation. It was nice to have Bobby around to understand all the jokes and ironies of being half way across the world and still meeting someone who grew up a few towns away.
Despite a change in scenery, this Thanksgiving shared a lot of the characteristics of all my other Thanksgivings: too much to eat, too much to drink, and very good company.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tenerife: my home away from home

      This past week I took a leave of absence from the cold, dark city that is Copenhagen to visit my good friend Kristen in Tenerife. Tenerife is one of the Canary Islands and also one of my new favorite places. It may have been because of all the warmth and sunshine, or because of my charming American company, but I had a great time. I did the tourist thing on my first couple days, taking pictures of anything and everything (see my facebook page for touristy pictures). We had a big family dinner on Friday night that Kristen prepared; and by Kristen I mean her helpful songbird neighbor across the hall. A couple of the American guys from the basketball team joined us and it was a night of pasta, wine, and Spanish karaoke. I also practiced with Kris's team on Thursday and Friday, which was fun because its a very different style of volleyball there. I indulged in some authentic tapaz on two occasions and I now have a new found appreciation for olives. 
Saturday I spent the afternoon napping on the beach, then returned for Kristen's rival match in La Laguna. They won in 4 close sets, an ideal victory for both spectator and team. We went out to celebrate afterward, keeping in mind that we had to be up the next morning at 10:45 for a barbecue with the team and fans.
L to R: Sherri, Me, Kristen, Bridgette at the BBQ
      We were told it might be "cold" at the barbecue so I brought along a light sweater. You would not believe the temperature difference between the beach and a campsite a few miles up in the mountains of Santa Cruz. We were freezing. But, if you know Kris and I, it takes more than a little cold weather to keep us from a buffet spread. 
Most of the food was delicious, then we met fish cake. At first it seemed like a harmless cake, with icing on top--then they added shrimp. We all quickly scattered and dodged eye contact so as not to be offered this dish, but Bridgette (one of Kristen's American teammates) was suckered into a big heaping piece of it. I did not try it, but from what I'm told, it was just a loaf of shark chum with mayonnaise on top. No thank you.
     We left the barbecue in the afternoon to go take a nap and thaw out. I made several efforts to change my plane ticket so I could stay for a few more days since the girls got some bonus days off for winning on Saturday. Unfortunately, it wasn't feasible so we decided to make the best of my last day and have a night on the town. By night out I mean the entire night, causing us to actually dismiss ourselves from the party when it was time to take me to the airport at 6am. I did suffer from some serious fatigue after that flight, but overall I would say my time in Tenerife was a success. I am already plotting my next visit to the island, but until then its back to the daily grind...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chalk it up as a win!

Well, we traveled our tough road this past week and the results were somewhat surprising. We beat Vordingborg in a 5 set match last Saturday, and then lost to Brønby in 4 sets on Wednesday, which knocked us out of the Cup. It was a very discouraging loss as we all hoped to be playing in the Cup finals in February.On top of that, we played Holte, the undefeated first place team the following Saturday so coming out with a winning record at the end of the week seemed unlikely.
    We went into our match on Saturday with basically nothing to lose, and honestly I think that helped. We gained an 8 point run in the first set and ran with it to win the set 25-15. Now that Holte saw they would actually have to play to beat us, the next set was tougher. But, with a few hitting errors on their end, we escaped with another win in the second set, 25-20. The third and fourth sets were both neck and neck until the final points and we couldn't seal the deal, losing 25-23 and 25-22. The match was at 2-2 and we went into a 5th set to 15 points. A point run in the beginning and a timeout at 5-1 was all it took to break the formerly undefeated champions. We exchanged sideouts for the remainder of the set, finally winning with an ace at 15-12. The entire team rushed the court, Holger leading the charge while jumping and waving his clip board through the air. If you'd like to watch the game, it is aired on (Holte vs. Gentofte)
     So, we won. We beat the undefeated, moving us up to a 3 way tie for first place with Brønby and Holte. We have one more match in this section of league play and its against the 8th place team, Lyngby next Saturday. Finishing the first round of league play in first place is very exciting, and I'm looking forward to defending our position in the next round.
    Now I pack for the Canary Islands, where I'm going to visit my friend, Kristen Dozier, who plays middle for a team on the island of Tenerife. I can't express how excited I am to go see American friends on a tropical island. A genie couldn't grant me a better wish. For more fun stories on adapting to life over seas, check out Kristen's blog called "Life and everything in Between."
Time to go buy sunscreen. Pictures and stories to come!