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Megan Rietema Chronicles Volleyball Trip Through Costa Rica

Thursday, August 08, 2013

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Calvin College setter Megan Rietema is heading into her senior year of volleyball this fall. Last month, Rietema had the opportunity to spend a week in Costa Rica with a team of AVCA Division II and Division III All-Americans playing top-level international competition while also giving clinics to age-group children and also touring the country. Rietema put together a journal of her week-long stay in Costa Rica which can be read down below. A year ago, Rietema was named a first team AVCA Division III All-American and helped Calvin reach the NCAA III Championship finals against St. Thomas.

Day 1: Sunday

Arrived to our destination- hotel to host athletes in the middle of a fern plantation. It was an awesome place and we were treated very well by the hosts of the place! Yummy food and amazing accommodations. Dinner- chicken lasagna, salad smoothie. Didn’t know if it was their real food or something special and more American they made for us. Went back, hung out a little, went to bed early- super tired from traveling and needed energy for the day.

Day 2: Monday

Woke up early, super tired, headed off to a elementary school. Kids stared as we walked in but gave us smiles when we gave one to them. We worked with the kids for about two hours. Taught setting with Greer Bratschie. Language barrier was super hard! I used my Spanglish as best I could! Lots of demonstrating. It was super fun to share a sport I love and have a passion for with the little kids.
After that we had lunch at our hotel and went to take a tour of the local cathedral. We headed straight to our game at the national practice gym. Played junior national team and national team. 2-2, 2-0? It was a sweet experience with sweet competition. Some of the most talented girls I ever have and ever will play against. They were tall and built. You could tell they were Olympic athletes. We played together as a team and fought super hard for the win. Very cool experience- something I will never forget. Dinner out to eat at a little chain restaurant. Went to hotel and slept real hard- already worn out and it was only the second day!

Day 3: Tuesday.

Today we woke up and headed out to the school where Caesar, our guide, leads a Bible study/sports camp for children. We got to spend an hour with three different groups of elementary aged kids. We were able to teach them our own specific skills, and then played with them as we taught them 6’s. they were all super cute and excited to be around Americans- the best question we got all morning was from a group of shy, nervous girls who asked us if we had ever been to the Nick Kids Choice Awards. They were disappointed that we had not, but were almost as equally excited when they heard we have been to Disney world. After our three sessions of vball, we spent time with a group of boys at break and played their game- soccer. It was so fun to see that kids in their natural comfort zone and to try to keep up with them- I think they beat us 1-0. There were many laughs and smiles shared that day with those kids.

We had a match that afternoon at a local club. When we arrived one of their lower club teams was practicing. We ended up doing a few drills with them and then played 6’s with them! After that, we played their top club team. The team was very good competition so it challenged us as a team. We were much taller, but they were a fast and scrappy team.

After lunch we were scheduled to play against the top club in Cartago. When we got to the gym there were 16 year olds practicing so we joined in and played with them for about an hour. It was fun to see what they could do and to teach them some of the things we do in practice. We got to chat with a few of them that spoke English and hear about their club and their lives. After that we took on their top club team. The competition was good, but we took every game from them.

Day 4: Wednesday

We got up early this morning to drive to Volcano Irazu. It was about a two hour drive from our hotel. When we got there we drove straight to the highest point. It was freezing and very windy. We only lasted about ten minutes because we couldn’t really see anything because we were in the clouds. We ended up taking a short walk to the area where we could see the center of the volcano. It was a beautiful area and we had the chance to take some awesome pictures.

After the lunch we had about an hour drive to get to the arena we were playing at. We played a team that had a few younger girls on the team. We ended up beating them 4-0, but we had a lot of fun playing as a team that night even though the competition wasn’t as good. We stopped playing after four games because we were all exhausted playing without any subs!

Day 5: Thursday

This morning we got to sleep in a bit more than we had been. We woke up, ate, and then headed into the center of San Jose to shop and tour around the city a bit. We spent about an hour in one of the biggest street markets there and all bought some fun souvenirs! After that, Kenny, our tour guide, took us on a short walking tour of the city where we saw some of the main sights. We had lunch at a sea food restaurant close to downtown and then went back to the hotel to rest up for our game against the National team again.

We chatted with the team a little before the game and they said they loved playing us and that we were welcome back ten times this year! Haha! This time they beat us 3-1. All of the games were very close, we just couldn’t seem to keep up with their controlled play and hard hits. They had a little more height then we did- which is something I’m not used to seeing when we play at Calvin. We played pretty well but just couldn’t ever get into a good flow of the game. It was an amazing experience to play against these very talented players. We even got pictures with a few of the older players after the game. I look forward to keeping up a little bit with their success as athletes now that we had the chance to play them!

Day 6/7: Friday/sat

The last two days were free of volleyball and filled with adventure! We drove up into the mountains to experience a four hour white water rafting trip and a course made up of four waterfalls to repel down, five zip lines, and a suspension bridge. I was extremely nervous going into the rafting trip- based on my past rafting experiences, but after the first few rapids I was having a blast and enjoyed the whole thing! We had an awesome guide who was tons of fun and made the trip an enjoyable one. We spent the next day in the jungle on the waterfall and zip line course. It was quite the day! We got soaked and flew over lots of land! The scenery was beautiful- something I will never forget.  It was a very adrenaline filled, yet relaxing way to end the busy busy trip.

Players/my experience

The nine players on the trip came from all over the US. We all hit it off right away and got along like we have known each other for years. It was fun to hear about all the different backgrounds of the players and their very different collegiate volleyball experiences- but how we all still played and talked like a team who had been together for years. The whole experience really helped me appreciate my playing experiences at Calvin by sharing my perspective with the other players and listening to theirs. It opened my eyes to some of the amazing and unique things about our program at Calvin.

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