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This past summer, two Olivet College sports programs traveled thousands of miles from home and entered new territories – both literally and figuratively.

The women’s volleyball team and men’s soccer team decided to try something new and each competed out of the United States. The men went east toward England, while the women went south toward the Grand Cayman Islands. The trips were about more than the game, though. They were about team bonding, player-to-coach growth and making a red-and-white scrapbook of memories. Through their excursions, both teams sought to become better programs.

A coach with big plans

“The whole idea for the Cayman Island trip came from Coach (Megan) Merchant,” said senior volleyball middle hitter Emma Brann. “She wanted us to experience something new as a team, and to see what the sport can be like in another part of the world.”

“When I started here it was important for me to build a program,” said Merchant. “I told the girls that I was asking for them to do more for the program than they had ever done before, and in return I would do more for them. My first year it was small things; this year, we wanted to step it up and offer the athletes a chance to go on an international trip.”

Making the trip a reality

Well before their bags were even packed, Brann says the team was coming together to make the trip a reality. “We fundraised almost $20,000 for the trip and seasonal expenses,” she said. Brann and her teammates hosted day camps and mini tournaments to raise the money. When she heard the news that the team had met their goal and would soon be traveling internationally, she was ecstatic.

“I have never been out of the country before, and to have the experience and play volleyball was simply amazing. This trip also gave our team a lot of time to bond and become closer.”

While the women were busy taking beach volleyball to a whole new level, the men’s soccer team was headed across the pond to compete in a sport that dominates the English landscape.

Soccer across the pond

“I wanted the players to experience soccer at its finest,” said Head Men’s Soccer Coach Daniel Bulley, a native of Exeter, England. “To play against some of England’s premier teams gave us an idea of the level of play in another country. Overall, I believe the trip was a success. It is something we want to keep doing.”

Michael Brait, a sophomore defender, said competing out of the states was an opportunity of a lifetime for the team.

“We got better and better by playing the English teams – where soccer is such a large part of the culture” said Brait about the 10-day experience.

Shared experiences through blogging

Geoff Henson, sports information director at Olivet College, thought a blog would be a great way for both teams to share trip details with people back home, as well as to document everything the teams experienced.

The volleyball players wrote blogs from their hotel rooms each night. Gabrielle Bauer, a sophomore outside hitter who enjoys writing, took on the task of writing the last few posts on her own. The blogs captured memories for the team, and were placed on the Comet athletics website for all to view.

Brait also wrote a blog detailing the England trip and all the benefits that came with it.

“As our overseas adventures came to a close, our final match was against the top opposition we would face on our journey. The Exeter City Football Club’s starting lineup was composed of first-team reserve players as well as members of the first team,” Brait wrote. “As we make our way back to the homeland, we recollect all the great days. This will be something we talk about for the rest of our lives.”

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