The University of Minnesota volleyball team got day four of its European Tour with a tour around the castle in Prague in the morning. The team followed a tour from one of the tour organizer’s assistants, who is a native of the Czech Republic.
Minnesota got to see a lot of beautiful sites throughout the tour, including the church and several other notable landmarks in Prague that are located within the confines of the area of the castle. One of the most beautiful sites was the view from the top of the church that looked down on a beautiful panoramic view of the city of Prague. However, that view came with a price as each member of the travel party walked up and down a narrow spiral staircase consisting of 287 stairs.
Following the end of the tour, the players, family and staff were free until 3:45 p.m. (local time) when they left to play their second match of the tour. Several players did more shopping and sightseeing, while others rested up for the night’s match.
Minnesota gathered in the lobby at about 3:45 p.m. (local time) and the tour organizer gave the Golden Gophers a detailed summary on the night’s opponent, Slavia Praha. Last year, Slavia Praha finished second in the Czech League, and most of their players were around during the offseason to play in the match.
The venue differed a lot from the previous match. Minnesota’s first match was in a gym that was used almost exclusively for volleyball by Olymp Praha. Slavia Praha played in an old style sports center in which it appeared that a little of everything was going on. As the Golden Gophers walked into the venue, there was beach volleyball and track and field going on in another part of the complex. Prior to Minnesota’s warm up at 4:30 p.m. (local time) the local women’s team handball club was concluding practice.
In fact, after the Golden Gophers finished their match, the men’s team handball club practiced and there were aerobics going on in the room across from the gym. Apparently these type of all-purpose sports complexes were big in Eastern Europe during the time that communist regimes were more prevalent.
Minnesota bounced back from a five-game loss to put forth a strong showing against Slavia Praha, as it claimed a four-game victory by scores of 25-27, 25-21, 25-23, 25-17. The win moved the Golden Gophers record to 1-1 on the tour. Following the match, the Golden Gophers went over to a restaurant that was also part of the facility. As it was explained to the team, players in these clubs get meals at these restaurants as part of their contract from playing for the club.
One of the interesting things about the first two opponents the Golden Gophers have faced is they are not just volleyball organizations. They are clubs that play all sorts of different sports at a high level in Czech Leagues. For example, the Slavia Praha hockey team had an ice rink right next to the restaurant where the Golden Gophers ate dinner. We were informed that Slavia Praha top level club played in what was a nice venue for a long time, before just recently moving to a 24,000-seat facility.
Hockey and soccer are the two main sports in Czech Republic and perhaps nobody benefited more the NHL’s lost season in 2004-05 then the Czech Republic who had stars return home to play in the Czech League , which drew record-setting crowds around the league.
The team will begin the second leg of the trip tomorrow when it heads to Brno, Czech Republic at 8:30 a.m. (local time). Minnesota will play its third match of the tour, and then sightsee around Brno.
The Minnesota volleyball team won its first match of its European Tour as it claimed a four-game victory over Slavia Praha by scores of 25-27, 25-21, 25-23, 25-17 in the Slavia Sports Hall on Thursday, June 15. After dropping the first game of the match, Minnesota rolled off three straight games to claim the four-game victory. Slavia Praha finished second in last year’s Czech League. In the second game, Minnesota jumped out to a 9-5 lead, before Slavia Praha answered with eight of the next nine points to take a 13-10 lead. The Golden Gophers came back with three straight points to tie it at 13, but Slavia Praha scored the next two points to take a 15-13 lead. That lead moved to 17-15, before the Golden Gophers rattled off five straight points to take a 20-17 lead. Slavia Praha cut the lead to 23-21, but Malama Peniata (Plymouth, Minn.) tucked a backrow push into an open spot to make it game point at 24-21. Peniata finished off the game with a service ace to even up the match at a game apiece. In the third game, Slava Praha jumped out to a 13-10 lead, but Minnesota tied the game at 13 apiece. Slavia Praha took the lead back at 15-14, but the Golden Gophers scored back-to-back points to make it 16-15. Both teams switched leads back and forth a couple times, before Slavia Praha took a two-point lead at 20-18. Minnesota answered in a big way with five straight points to take a 23-20 lead. Slava Praha cut the lead to 23-22, but the Golden Gophers scored the next point to make it game point at 24-22. Slavia Praha cut it to 24-23, but Minnesota scored the next point to take a 2-1 lead in the match. The Golden Gophers jumped out to a slim 8-7 lead to start the fourth game. However, Minnesota rattled off eight of the next nine points to claim a 16-8 lead. The Golden Gophers extended it to their largest lead of the game at 22-12. Slavia Praha scored five of the next six points to make it 23-17. However, Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) delivered a kill to give Minnesota match point at 24-17. After a dig from Peniata on the next play Bowman converted the final kill of the match to give Minnesota the four-game victory. Minnesota will be back in action when it travels to Borno, Czech Republic on Friday, June 16. The Golden Gophers will face last year’s Czech League Champion OK Borno.
Michele Wilber & Katie Vatterrodt Diary:
Today was another exciting day for our team in Prague. We took the Metro to the Prague Castle to start the day. We saw the St. Vitus Cathedral built in the middle of the palaces. It was an extremely beautiful church with beautiful stained glass windows and gothic columns. We were able to take the 287 step climb to the top of one of the towers. The view of Prague was worth the tiring climb! We then had free time to explore Prague in our own ways before the match.
The team arrived at the gym ready to step up from yesterday’s performance. We played Slavia Praha and came away with a 3-1 victory : ) After the match we enjoyed a delicious meal at the club’s restaurant. The group then had more free time to rest or explore Prague. The city has been wonderful and a really great cultural experience. We’ve met so many interesting people, seen the sights and the team has found a new appreciation for soccer since the World Cup is now going on in Europe. Now we are packing to continue our tour in Brno, Czech Republic. Until tomorrow.
Michele Wilber & Katie Vatterrodt