Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been almost 2 months since I've update this. I won't apologize for not updating it more regularly. Things have been busy and I've procrastinated. Instead I'll tell you about the last few weeks and all of the things that we have been up to. Mostly we have been busy with games, playing up to 3 a week. We usually alternate home and away so there has been quite a few trips back and forth to Istanbul as well as Ankara and Cannakle. The team is 6-3 on the season with a couple of 5 set thrillers. The league is so tough and every game has been a battle for us. Even if we won a game in 4 sets it has gone into extra points or only separated by 2 points each set.

League started off with 3-2 win vs Illerbankasi in Ankara. Then we played Yesilyurt and won 3-1. After we went to Istanbul to play Fenerbache and lost a close match in straight sets. We got our first 3 set win against Besiktas at home, which made the fans and president happy. At Cannakle we won in 5 and then won in 4 vs Saryier at home. We were then handed two losses in a row from Galatasary and Bursa Nilfer but got back on track this past Saturday with a 3-1 win vs Bursa Bld. Next we head to Istanbul to take on Eczacibasi on Sunday and then our final home game of the first half of season vs Vakifbank.

Normally we fly to games, there are 7 teams in Istanbul alone and it's only an hour and a half flight to get there. Our longest road trip of the season was to Cannakle. We took a plane from Trabzon to Istanbul then drove on a bus for 5 hours to catch a ferry and another bus ride to make it to our hotel. Although it was the longest trip of season it was nothing like the 24+ hour train rides that I took in Russia to travel for a league game last year. We all were thrilled to pull out a 5 set victory in Cannakle and then head home the next day.

We are currently tied for 5th place in the league with 16 points. Like I said we have 2 games left against the number 2 and 3 teams in the league and we are hoping to take some points off of them before we get a break for Christmas and the New Year. Kyle and I are so excited to be able to go to Colorado for Christmas time this year. It's been 4 years since we have been home for the holidays. I am looking forward to recharging and spending time with both mine and Kyle's family.

We haven't had a chance to do much exploring since we have had lots of games but we are lucky and the team has allowed for Kyle to travel to many of the away games. He made the trek with us to Cannakle and several trips to Istanbul. I loving having him in the stands both at home and when we are away.

Several of my teammates (shout out to Damla, Asli and Cansu!!!) have been great about taking us to local restaurants including a restaurant that has been in operation since 1860's. They serve rice pilaf, stewed meat and beans in tomato sauce. Of course for dessert they serve baklava and ├žay. We have gone there at least once a week because the flavor and taste is just that good. We also have found a restaurant that serves semi traditional American food but they also have a great Turkish style breakfast which we enjoy on occasion. We have taken several walks around town including the 5 minutes it takes to walk to the seaside from our apartment. I have so enjoyed the warm weather that we have had for the past weeks and I am not missing my parka from last year at all. We have been in the 60's all of October and November and have just recently dipped into the 50's in December.

One night that was particularly memorable was when we were invited to my coaches house for dinner made by his wife and traditional music played by coach. My teammate Judith plays the guitar and she brought it along to try and play with our coach which he throughly enjoyed. Her brother was visiting at the time and he also played the guitar so he could play as well. The food was all hand made and delicious. Several salads and potatoes cooked different ways. Puff pasteries stuffed with veggies or cheese and fresh fruit for dessert.

Another fun night we had away from volleyball was cooking for some teammates for Thanksgiving. Kyle and I cooked stuffing, mashed potatoes, crispy chicken, fresh veggies and basil carrots. Judith made homemade pumpkin soup and a delicious death by chocolate double layer cake. We had 7 of us all together in my apartment and had a great time watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade vis Slingbox. Even though it wasn't the most traditional of dinners the girls really enjoyed it and liked celebrating a very traditional American holiday with us.

For the week coming up we have lots of practice, lifting and video. We will travel to Istanbul on Saturday and then play Eczacibasi on Sunday. I'm looking forward to seeing Jordan Larson Burbach this weekend as she plays for Eczacibasi. It's always great to see another American on the other side of the net. After that we will travel home and our last game will be on December 20th. After that game we will start our travel home and hopefully be in Colorado by the afternoon of the 21st.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family friends and good food. Kyle and I missed being with our families but we are loving all of the time that we have together and all of the adventures that we have had this season so far.




Top Left: Enjoying Starbucks in Istanbul with my teammates. Left: The team gave Kyle a polo. He is officially part of the team. Right: On the Black Sea beach in Istanbul at a preseason tournament


 Left: Yoga on the lawn at a hotel in Istanbul before a match. Enjoying the sunshine. Right: Yimei and I, pregame selfie ritual.

 Gettting my serve on.

 Top and bottom are a pictures around our apartment in Trabzon. Only a 5 min walk to the seaside!



 Top: TV match vs Fenerbache. Left: Asli birthday dinner with Cansu, me and Damla. Right: Leaving a note at our favorite pilaf restaurant in town.



 Top: Coach showing Judith his traditional turkish guitar. Left: Judith and her brother at our music filled dinner. Right: Cay (tea) and pasta (cake) for dessert.
 Left: Judith, Yimei and me. Right: Tugce, me and Asli.





 Me, Asli and Damla.
  Above Traditional and below Awkward team photos
 Me and my main squeeze.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Trabzon, Turkey

 

The first post in a new country and season is always the most difficult for me. I feel like there is so much that is happening and I want to write about all of it. I'll try to give you a good picture of what's been going on and what things are like here in Trabzon for Kyle and I. We have been in Trabzon since September 20th, its hard to believe that this is week 4 since we have arrived. Time is flying!

For those of you that don't know this is our second time playing and living in Turkey. I played for Pursaklar in 2012 in my second pro season overseas. Ultimately that did not work out and I left early. That being said, I was a little reluctant to return to Turkey but excited none the less.








Kyle and I received the warmest welcome from my manager/teammate here in Trabzon who I played with in Pursaklar. When we landed in Trabzon the President of the club, head coach, manager, president of the airport and several others greeted us right off the plane, escorted us to the VIP section of the airport for pictures and of course tea. It was so great to first see a familiar face and then receive such a warm welcome after such a long travel day.





















Trabzon is located right on the Black Sea. We have views of the sea from our apartment, we drive along the coastline every day to practice and when you fly in you can see the coastline for miles in either direction. I wasn't sure exactly where the team is located in Trabzon but I was hoping that we would be close to the sea and I'm so happy with how close we are. Kyle and I have our own apartment, we live in a new building and our apartment is brand new. So new, that some things aren't finished! We are waiting for the gas to be permanently hooked up and some more permanent blinds to be put in. There are several grocery stores and restaurants within walking distance and a school right across the street. So along with the call to prayer 5 times a day we have the school bell going off about every hour, lots of noises but a good area as well. My other teammates that are foreigners live in the same building as us. Its the Americans, a Chinese and a Dutch player, yes we draw lots of funny looks when we walk around town but people are starting to realize that we will be here for a while and are recognizing us more.

4 days after we got to Trabzon we left for Ankara for the first round of Turkish Cup games. We played in a 4 team pool and had 3 games in 3 days. We lost the first game in 4 sets, it was good for us because it sparked some good conversations on how we are going to improve and what are the expectations for the season. I should say that most of my teammates speak English and so does the coach. I am so happy and lucky to have so many teammates that I can talk to. This is the first time that I have been able to really communicate with so many of my teammates and it makes a huge difference. After that first loss we came away with two wins in 3 sets in the next two days. We got a little lucky and advanced into the next round of Turkish Cup!




 
After 4 days in Ankara I headed back to Trabzon to rescue Kyle. He stayed behind this time and our internet wasn't set up before we left! Yikes!! The weather has been consistently above 65, it varies between sunny and overcast but overall very good for exploring and walking around the city. When I got back Kyle had figured out all of the shortcuts, which grocery store was the closest, which one carried soy sauce and tortillas and where the specialty beef store was.

Once we got back from the Turkish Cup games we were able to get in a full week of practice. This was helpful to get to know each other and play together more. My national team system and the Chinese system in general is much faster than the system in Turkey so it took a couple of days for us to find a good compromise with our setters so that we could connect on a regular basis.

After that good week of practice we had Sunday off to relax and explore. My teammates have been great about taking me to some local restaurants and the mall so that we could find some things we need for our apartment. We also found out that there is a movie theater at the mall that shows movies in English, I'm sure that will come in handy on a rainy day. One more week of practice and lifting and then it was a huge Muslim holiday called Bayram. It goes on for 5 days so the 3rd-7th was a holiday for most people. We practiced most of those days but the team organized a fishing trip and a BBQ  on Sunday and Monday after our morning practice so that we could enjoy the holiday a little too. We went fishing on the Black Sea in my assistant coaches yacht. After catching 25-30 relatively small fish we cooked them up when we got back to shore and had dinner. The next day we drove east and into the mountains about 30 minutes so that we could have famous BBQ from Trabzon. We had corn bread, traditional Turkish salad, kofte (beef), and milk rice pudding for dessert.
 











This week we are preparing to go to Istanbul for our last preseason tournament. We will play 4 teams in 4 days. Also our last foreigner from the Netherlands will join us so we will be a complete team. She was playing in Italy at World Championships with her national team earlier in October. Speaking of World Championships I couldn't be more proud of Team USA for the effort and fight that they showed throughout the tournament! Gold at World Championships has been one of our goals from the beginning of the quad and it was great to see the team that was there achieve it. I couldn't be more proud! USA! USA! USA! ALL IN!!!

Ok, back to our preseason tournament. We will play two Turkish teams, a team from Romania and one from Bulgaria. I'm looking forward to playing someone else on the other side of the net! We start normal season games on October 29th which is fast approaching. We want to work out some of the kinks and solidify a starting 6 at this tournament.

I also want to mention how proud I am of the Ducks volleyball program. They are off to a great start this season and even though the have two tough losses in the last two weeks I am so proud of how they are playing. I was able to play with them for a few days before I came to Turkey and was impressed with their competitive spirit and willingness to learn. GO DUCKS!

Follow me on Instagram snewcombe Twitter @sonjanewcombe and facebook for updates and pics on a regular basis.

Some more of my favorite pictures from the last few weeks. Enjoy!

Homemade dinner by 3 of my teammates.                
Best way to try new foods.

 To the left fresh fruits at one of the grocery stores nearby. Above my haul from the weekly street market all for 18 lira or $8.

 Team dinner, Trabzon specialty Pide. Similar to pizza. Really delicious!
















Saturday, January 25, 2014

Game Update!




















I actually have games to report on! We played 3 games in January and won 2 out of the 3. That was the goal from the start but its funny because the game that we lost was one that we were counting on winning. Its ok, 2 out of 3 isn't bad and it has us tied for 7th place and just a few points behind 5th and 6th place. Our goal as a team for the season is to finish in the top 8. Personally I would like to finish 5th and I think we can do it. We are in a good position and just made the turn into the second half of the season so we are playing teams for the second time now.

 

Our first game was at home vs Zarachie Odinsovo who was in 5th place. It was the first game that Kyle got to see since we came back to Russia after being home for the holidays in early December. The Russian Superleague schedule is crazy this year. They are accommodating for Champions League games as well as international competitions so we have huge gaps in the schedule for when we do and don't play games. The game on January 8th was the first time that I had played since early November. That's a long time considering I was "in season" the whole time. I was injured for our 3 games in late November and then we had a break from games in December. Needless to say I was anxious about the upcoming game. I wanted to come back strong for my team and it was an important game for us to win. We went up 2 sets to 0 and then were ahead in the third set 24-22. Unfortunately we made some careless errors as a team and we lost the third set. I know! Can you believe it?! We had it in the bag. Luckily we were able to pull out the match and get the 5 set win 15-6. I got the match kill from the pipe. I'm really proud of my team we pulled together in the end and overcame some adversity. That's what this game is all about!

Our next match would require a 12+ hour travel day the very next day on the 9th. We arrived on the 10th in the morning and had to play on the 11th. Lets see if you can follow this one? Fly from Tyumen to Moscow, take a train from the north of Moscow to the metro, metro to the south of Moscow to take another train to another airport in Moscow then a final flight from Moscow to Ulan Ude. Whew! Oh and all of this was done running, literally running, through the train and metro stations because we were delayed out of Tyumen so all of our connections were really tight. Coach didn't want to sit at one airport in Moscow to wait for the flight to Ulan Ude so thats why we had to change airports. Let's just say I'm really glad that that road trip is over. We lost 3-0, this was the one that we were supposed to win. The team was very close to us in the rankings and we very easily could have beaten them. That's what I like about Russian league though, if you don't show up anyone in this league can and will beat you.

 
 


Our last game was against Fakel. They were ranked ahead of us in the standings and we lost to them in the first game of the season. I was also particularly happy to be playing against them as an outside hitter this time because last time we played I was the libero for our team. It's the first game of the second half of the season. I'm always happy when the turn comes around, it means time is moving along. I'm proud to say that we took care of business and won 3-0. My team played really well and for the first time really was running on all cylinders. It was fun to play in a game where we executed the entire time and didn't let off the gas.


Now we don't have a game until February 16!!! That's a long time without a game. We have an extra long break because at the beginning of the season one team from the league folded because of money issues so essentially every team has an extra "bye week" and ours just happens to be in this stretch where we only have one other game. We will be having double days during this time and lots of lifting. We were given some extra days off after winning the game vs Fakel but Kyle and I decided to stay in Tyumen. Russia is a tough place to travel to and from, it takes a lot of time to get anywhere. Also Kyle will have to leave a little later in February or March to fulfill his visa requirements so we might try and take a couple of days then to go and travel somewhere.

For now we are super excited for the Broncos to be in the Super Bowl and are looking forward to that in a couple weeks. We are also watching lots of Champions League playoff games both mens and womens and cheering on lots of former and National Team teammates. I'm looking forward to all of the awards shows coming up especially the Oscars. The weather has been pretty mild overall and we have enjoyed exploring some more and taking walks when we can.


Be sure to check out this website headed up by my National Team Teammate Rachael Adams and her friend Geena Urango. It's a great resource to learn more about what its like to be an athlete in a foreign country. There are lots of testimonies and blogs to check out through the website. I've written a couple pieces for her as well, so hopefully they will be up there soon. Check it out!
http://athletesabroad.wordpress.com/

 Dinner out at a thai food restaurant in Tyumen.
 
 Walking through Moscow airport #1.
 
 Train in Moscow.
 
 Trying to figure out who we lost while we were running rough the metro. We lost 6 teammates, only temporarily though.
 
The sign in the distance says Moscow. This was outside the metro station when we were waiting for our final train.