The Central Washington University volleyball team makes its way to Italy for an international tour beginning on Saturday (Mar. 18).
The Wildcats leave Ellensburg at 8:30 a.m. and arrive in Rome, Italy at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Sunday (Mar. 19), before returning to Washington on March 26. Central Washington has three matches scheduled against high-level opponents in Rome, Florence, and Como.
The journey takes the Wildcats from the nearly 3,000-year-old seat of the former Roman Empire, to the Tuscany region, before concluding in Milan. The trip provides a unique opportunity for the team to play overseas and experience a different culture. Competing internationally also affords CWU a chance to forge bonds and compete as a team before the 2017 season.
Spanning over 6,000 miles, one ocean, and two continents (for just one way), the journey falls just shy of the Wildcats' 14,000 miles travelled during the 2016 regular season when the return trip is added.
This is the first international tour for the program under head coach Mario Andaya. Central volleyball assembled a sizeable group for the trip. Joining the the trip are family, friends, and a strong following of alumni.
"We are excited to go overseas," Andaya said. "We are looking forward to the competition, we don't know too much about them, but that's okay. We just want to experience a different culture, but at the same time create a worldly volleyball experience for our girls."
Central Washington's first match is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. UTC+1 (4:30 a.m. PST) on Tuesday (Mar. 21) against Liberi e Forti 1914. Founded in 1914 by parish priest Don Giulio Facibeni, "Free and Strong 1914" became a multi-sport association. In volleyball Liberi e Forti 1914 is represented by six separate teams, ranging U12 to III Divisione.
The Wildcats' second match is against Pallavolo Nottolini of Serie B2. First serve is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. UTC+1 (4:00 a.m. PST) on Wednesday (Mar. 22). Founded in 1991, Pallavolo Nottolini currently has over 200 athletes. Serie B2 is led by Technical Supervisor Sandro Becheroni.
The week's final match is scheduled for Thursday (Mar. 23) against Pallavolo Senago of Serie B2 at 8:30 p.m. (4:30 a.m. PST). Launched in 1975 with just two teams and 23 athletes, Pallavolo Senago expanded to over seven teams and 100 athletes playing in 14 leagues. A live stream of the match will be available on Instagram. To view the match, login to Instagram and view "pgssenago".
"From what we have been told and seen, they are high level college teams," Andaya said. "We have had testimonials from Division I schools that have played against this level and they have been comparable with Division I mid-majors. We want to go over and compete at the highest level we can. We also want to get to know what systems they go under, as far as their clubs and how they train."
While the Wildcats face tough competition, they also get a chance to take in Italian culture in three distinct regions of the country. From the ruins of the Flavian Amphitheatre, to the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica, to the Galleria dell'Accademia, and the Gothic Duomo di Milan, the team will experience the history and culture of Italy.
"The whole culture aspect is probably a little more exciting then the playing," Andaya added. "For a lot of our girls, they have never experienced an international trip. We are all going to take in the sights, travelling around to the major areas in Italy is exciting for us. We are going to bond as a team and experience new things as a team."
Andaya hopes the trip not only brings his team closer together, and provides an enriching experience, but also creates a long-lasting imprint.
"We want to build lifetime memories," Andaya said. "We want them to look back and be able to have strong memories that Central Washington helped provide. Those are the things we want to be able to establish on this trip."
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