FIVB World League: I Can Dig It

(Because it's about time I used my favorite volleyball pun. #sorrynotsorry)

Hello from Reno!

USA Volleyball's 2013 Boys' Junior National Championships (it's a mouthful, ain't it?) is well underway, and it's dragging me along with it. But that's a whole slew of stories for another post!

For two nights during my stay, I went downtown to a different events center, where FIVB World League matches were being hosted. The Men's National Team played two matches against Bulgaria, which meant my boss BJ was in town, and she thought it'd be cool for me to see. So she got me a media credential and I watched (er, "worked") both matches from courtside. (In case you couldn't tell, BJ is a really awesome boss.) Basically, I tossed back stray balls and ran stats in between sets and looked around in awe the whole time.

It's honestly a miracle that I didn't take a single volleyball to the face. This was also my first time seeing a national team in any sport, so that was awesome. And a bunch of guys on the team are Olympians, so two thumbs up!

The audience was actually pretty full and incredibly loud (and full of Bulgarians).

I mean, are we in Bulgaria, or...?
And it was such a cool experience to see these guys play. I got to toss a ball to Max Holt and sit in on Matt Anderson's press conference, and I'm entirely in awe of David Lee. His attacks are the awe equivalent of a LeBron James dunk. Literally eye-popping. There's a reason he's a gold medalist and two-time Olympian.

Matt Anderson getting ready to serve!
...And serving.
The U.S. won the first night and lost the second night, which was kind of unfortunate, but every set was really close and well fought out. The Bulgarians are really intimidating. For anyone who understands Miracle references, instead of "Johnson against Mikhailov, Broten against Petrov, Pav against... whoever-ov," we had Anderson against Sokolov, Smith against Salparov, Caldwell against Yosifov... Literally every member of their team had a last name ending in -ov or -ev. So much to the point I actually kept a list.

But the question is, do any of them look like Stan Laurel?
But I think what made me happiest was that a ton of people crowded around the court after the matches ended, and that the U.S. players stayed incredibly late to sign autographs and take pictures with people. They were probably out there for a good 45 minutes after the match, and then I left so it might've been even longer. It's stuff like this and makes me love the under-appreciated sports. The athletes aren't in it for money, they don't have crazy fame and egos, and they truly appreciate the people that came to see them play.

I would say that everyone should go see a match if you get the chance, but they seem to only play in places like Wichita or Tulsa or overseas, so uh... maybe not. But if the opportunity arises, it really is a good time -- probably even if you have to watch from the stands. ;)

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