Well, once again I’ve been a slacker on the blogging… sorry about that.
The Chennai Challenger was an incredible experience!!! Heather and I not only qualified, but ended up finishing 7th!!! We really had no idea what to expect going into it, but just kept pleasantly surprising ourselves with wins along the way!
We beat Thailand for our first qualifier match 21-12ish, 21-18. Heather and I hung on by a thread in the end when we both thought we were going to pass out. It was by far the hottest match I’ve ever played in my life! We started at 9:45 which you would think would be bearable heat-wise, but it was not at all! After the qualifier day they didn’t play any matches before 3:30 pm and we played the latest match of the tourney which ended at 2:20 am! After Thailand, we beat Spain to qualify for the Main Draw. The scores were around 21-13 and 21-17ish. That night we got to attend the Main Draw meeting where we figured out who we would be playing against. Since we had no points we figured we’d be playing one of the top three teams, but the top eight teams had a bye. So, we played the number 9 or maybe 10 seed which ended up being an Indian team. In the Main Draw of FIVB events, the host country gets two automatic main draw bids and those teams are automatically the number nine and ten seeds. So, we got lucky and got a great draw for our first main draw match!
That next morning we got to move to the Main Draw hotel, woo hoo!!!! Unfortunately, the second hotel didn’t have internet for the first 2 or 3 days. It was still fun to get to be at the hotel with all of the better players! That included the other two USA teams (one men, one women) that were there.
The match against India ended up being about 21-7 and 21-5. I’m pretty sure we were really unliked during that match and it was actually one of the more awkward matches I’ve ever played. The girls were nice and worked hard but India is just new to the beach volleyball scene so they haven’t practiced a whole ton. The crowd was not rude by any means but it was just quiet and Heather and I felt like we were getting death stares the whole time, haha.
After the India match we played Ukraine. They were seeded number 7, so we were ready for a really good match. We definitely got our money’s worth by going to three games. We won the first game 21-13. It wasn’t easy but we definitely had the control the whole game. The second game was close, but we just didn’t have the same focus and weren’t hitting as good of shots as we did in the first and we lost 17-21. And, the third game was close at the beginning but we pulled it out and won by a pretty good margin (15-8) after the Ukrainian girl yelled at me! Yep, that’s right, she yelled at me, haha. I can’t type out the whole situation because it would take like 10 pages, but basically, she was arguing a call with the ref. Well, A. she was wrong about it and B. she argued for a long time. So, I walked up to the ref and kept asking him to make her go back and play (I didn’t want to lose momentum) and when he kept letting her argue and didn’t make her get over it and start playing, I sort of joking said, “Just give her a card or something and let’s get this show on the road.” I don’t think she knew what that meant, but then I finally said in a more firm tone, “Can we just play?” And she yells back, “YEAH, WE CAN!” Gives me a dirty look, and then walks away cussing me out. It wasn’t in English, but there was no doubting she wasn’t happy with me, haha. After that, she and her partner started to crumble. And, I’m pretty sure Heather dominated them with some aces and blocks to end the game!!! It was AWESOME!!!! That game ended around midnight.
The next day we played Kazakhstan, who beat our other USA team that came into the tourney ranked number 2. Obviously, we we tried to prepare ourselves for a tough match! We came out and played hard but just weren’t clicking like we had been. We lost 21-17 and 21-18. It was definitely within reach, but couldn’t close the games out! So, we were bumped down to the Contender’s bracket (really the Loser’s bracket, but Contender sounds better, haha). We played Canada that night to stay in it. This was our second match of the day and it started at 1:30…… AM!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, it was the weirdest thing ever. You could tell everyone was a little loopy because the match wasn’t quite as crisp from either team, but it was still a good match! We won 22-20 and 21-18. Thank goodness!!! And, it actually ended up being a fun match because not only was it close, but we played on center court (it was actually our 3rd or 4th time at that point) and the announcer had some special music for us! He looked us up on Facebook to find out our favorite music. For me, he played Michelle by the Beatles when I would go back to serve or if I did something good, and then he played country music (Lady Antebellum to be specific!!!!) during and after the match!!! It was awesome!! Country music in India, haha.
It was quite a late night by the time we got back and got showered. Even though we were able to sleep in, we were just out of whack when we played Belarus the next day. One of the two Belarus girls had played in the Olympics but we’d seen her play and knew she was beatable. Well…. we got down by quite a bit in the first game which made it hard to come back, but we tried! We ended up losing 21-15. The second game was close until the end and they just got a run to end it. It was a bummer, but we knew it had been a good tourney for us over all! After that we got to enjoy watching more volleyball and hanging out with some of the other players.
Other adventures along the way was the TERRIBLE driving there!!! Even when there were lanes painted (which was rarely) no one paid attention. And when I say no one paid attention, I mean people drove on the wrong side of the road 95% of the time!!! There was swerving, constant honking, and we stayed about 4 inches from cars on every side. It’s a good thing my Mom wasn’t there because she couldn’t have ridden in cars ever or she would have been so sick! We had a couple of near death experiences when we went to a nearby touristy town with some locals (they were tournament people so we didn’t go with randoms, and there were about 6 other vball players with us too). Mahabalipuram was the touristy town we went to. That’s where I bought about 25 scarves for the girls on my volleyball team and some others to give away as souvenirs. We also had an AMAZING meal at a local restaurant. I wish I knew the names of all the food we ate, but I have no clue. We saw a famous temple from a distance, and learned about how there are ruins of about 5 other temples like it under water because of a tsunami! Pretty crazy that they’re still underwater because of it.
I forgot that on the way down to Mahabalipuram, we stopped at the Croc Farm. It was kind of like a zoo in the US, except it was literally only crocodiles and alligators. I think there might have been about 2 tanks of turtles, too. There was a crocodile (or maybe alligator) there that was about 10 meters long!!!!!!! It was sooo big you can’t even believe it. And, in all honesty, the cage holding it in didn’t give me much confidence! While we were heading into the Croc Farm we got bombarded by little kid beggars which was really sad and really intense. They literally wouldn’t leave your side until you got in your car, closed the door and drove off. Pretty crazy.
Hmmm, I’m trying to think of all of the other fun stories… oh yeah, I almost lost my camera while I was there! I recorded our match against the Ukraine and I guess in all of the excitement after, I forgot it and left it by the court. I tried to get in touch with people back at the beach that night, but we were the last match so everyone had left. Heather and I woke up early the next morning to try and go get it from the beach, but there still weren’t many people there so no luck. We tried one more time when we went to the courts before we played (and people were actually around) and they had found it!!!! I couldn’t believe it!!! Everything I had heard up to that point is that if you set something down and turn around for a second it would be gone, so I was sooo happy about not losing it!
I was also able to shop a little and get some really nice stuff for like 75% percent off. If you think about it, a lot of the designer clothes and just clothes in the US are made in India so it’s way cheaper there.
Hope you enjoyed the update! I have plenty more things to write about but thought I would do first things first! Enjoy the pics too!