Sonja Newcombe: Update from Russia

I actually have games to report on! We played 3 games in January and won 2 out of the 3. That was the goal from the start but its funny because the game that we lost was one that we were counting on winning. Its ok, 2 out of 3 isn’t bad and it has us tied for 7th place and just a few points behind 5th and 6th place. Our goal as a team for the season is to finish in the top 8. Personally I would like to finish 5th and I think we can do it. We are in a good position and just made the turn into the second half of the season so we are playing teams for the second time now.

Our first game was at home vs Zarachie Odinsovo who was in 5th place. It was the first game that Kyle got to see since we came back to Russia after being home for the holidays in early December. The Russian Superleague schedule is crazy this year. They are accommodating for Champions League games as well as international competitions so we have huge gaps in the schedule for when we do and don’t play games. The game on January 8th was the first time that I had played since early November. That’s a long time considering I was “in season” the whole time. I was injured for our 3 games in late November and then we had a break from games in December. Needless to say I was anxious about the upcoming game. I wanted to come back strong for my team and it was an important game for us to win. We went up 2 sets to 0 and then were ahead in the third set 24-22. Unfortunately we made some careless errors as a team and we lost the third set. I know! Can you believe it?! We had it in the bag. Luckily we were able to pull out the match and get the 5 set win 15-6. I got the match kill from the pipe. I’m really proud of my team we pulled together in the end and overcame some adversity. That’s what this game is all about!

Our next match would require a 12+ hour travel day the very next day on the 9th. We arrived on the 10th in the morning and had to play on the 11th. Lets see if you can follow this one? Fly from Tyumen to Moscow, take a train from the north of Moscow to the metro, metro to the south of Moscow to take another train to another airport in Moscow then a final flight from Moscow to Ulan Ude. Whew! Oh and all of this was done running, literally running, through the train and metro stations because we were delayed out of Tyumen so all of our connections were really tight. Coach didn’t want to sit at one airport in Moscow to wait for the flight to Ulan Ude so thats why we had to change airports. Let’s just say I’m really glad that that road trip is over. We lost 3-0, this was the one that we were supposed to win. The team was very close to us in the rankings and we very easily could have beaten them. That’s what I like about Russian league though, if you don’t show up anyone in this league can and will beat you.

Our last game was against Fakel. They were ranked ahead of us in the standings and we lost to them in the first game of the season. I was also particularly happy to be playing against them as an outside hitter this time because last time we played I was the libero for our team. It’s the first game of the second half of the season. I’m always happy when the turn comes around, it means time is moving along. I’m proud to say that we took care of business and won 3-0. My team played really well and for the first time really was running on all cylinders. It was fun to play in a game where we executed the entire time and didn’t let off the gas.

Now we don’t have a game until February 16!!! That’s a long time without a game. We have an extra long break because at the beginning of the season one team from the league folded because of money issues so essentially every team has an extra “bye week” and ours just happens to be in this stretch where we only have one other game. We will be having double days during this time and lots of lifting. We were given some extra days off after winning the game vs Fakel but Kyle and I decided to stay in Tyumen. Russia is a tough place to travel to and from, it takes a lot of time to get anywhere. Also Kyle will have to leave a little later in February or March to fulfill his visa requirements so we might try and take a couple of days then to go and travel somewhere.

For now we are super excited for the Broncos to be in the Super Bowl and are looking forward to that in a couple weeks. We are also watching lots of Champions League playoff games both mens and womens and cheering on lots of former and National Team teammates. I’m looking forward to all of the awards shows coming up especially the Oscars. The weather has been pretty mild overall and we have enjoyed exploring some more and taking walks when we can.

Be sure to check out this website headed up by my National Team Teammate Rachael Adams and her friend Geena Urango. It’s a great resource to learn more about what its like to be an athlete in a foreign country. There are lots of testimonies and blogs to check out through the website. I’ve written a couple pieces for her as well, so hopefully they will be up there soon. Check it out!

 Dinner out at a thai food restaurant in Tyumen.
 Walking through Moscow airport #1.
 Train in Moscow.
 Trying to figure out who we lost while we were running rough the metro. We lost 6 teammates, only temporarily though.
The sign in the distance says Moscow. This was outside the metro station when we were waiting for our final train.
Sonja Newcombe
Adventures in Serbia
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