Sophomore libero Anna Panagiotakopoulos is playing for the USA Junior National Team at the ninth annual European Global Challenge in Pula, Croatia, this month. Here is Anna’s first blog entry from Croatia.
MARIBOR, Slovenia - The first few days in Slovenia have been awesome! Right when I got here, I met all the girls on my team we all moved into our apartments in Maribor. I have two roommates: Kayla and Liz! The apartments are so nice and we are at the bottom of a mountain that is an incredible ski resort in the wintertime. The first night we had a combined practiced with one of the other teams that will play in the tournament next week. We had the opportunity to play with some girls from Slovenia and Croatia and they were all great. The next morning, we met two of our coaches - Coley and Dan Pawlikowski - and had a practice. It was a little chaotic at first getting used to playing with 10 different girls I had never played with, but after a few hours we all built a great sense of team chemistry. In the afternoon, we met Todd, our head coach, and played exhibition games with a team from Slovenia. We switched up the lineups quite a bit, but we all connected very well together.
Plans for the night were taking a gondola ride to the top of the mountain for dinner with all the teams that are here. We were with some Puerto Rican girls, the Slovenian team and the Hungarian team. The view from the top was incredible; it was a view of the entire city. We had a quick turnaround and played more games against Hungary in the morning and showed some major improvements. Our communication and sense of team was getting better every time we stepped on the court. I have been playing libero the whole time and I was named the captain for our team.
Work hard play hard, right? After we played for a few hours this morning we all got on a bus and drove a couple hours to Lake Bled. We got to swim and then we took a boat to a little island in the middle of the lake and did some sightseeing. Everything is very picturesque and beyond beautiful. All of the girls on the team are so fun and so different. We all get along well on and off the court. When we play everyone is competitive, hard working and just all-around great players.
Off the court, we goof around and have already become a solid group of friends. The coaches are amazing, too. Todd is really positive, helpful and everything he says is spot on. He is so knowledgeable about the game and I'm really learning a lot from him. Dan is brilliant. It seems like he would be the quiet one, but he is hilarious and full of solid information. And when I see Coley, I think that is me in about 10 years. She is full of energy and always has a huge smile on her face. I work with her a lot with my passing and defense, and it’s the smallest things that are so helpful. Coley is so clever and seems to have the right things to say for every situation. I love having the opportunity to work with other coaches. It is nice to have some different perspectives and hear other philosophies they might have.
We continue tomorrow morning with a few more practice games against a team from the Czech Republic.