Jordan Larson Blog: Stories from the Road 1/4/12
NOTE: Jordan Larson is writing a blog for Mizuno, a key USA Volleyball sponsor and partner. Larson is a Mizuno-sponsored athlete and will periodically provide insights into being a U.S. Women's National Team athlete while representing Mizuno. For more information Mizuno, visit mizunousa.com.
Jan. 4, 2012
Greetings from Kazan, Russia. I am currently playing on my professional team Dinamo-Kazan. Kazan is located about half way between Moscow and Siberia (See if you can find us on the map below). I have a lot to update everyone on...So here comes my book.
After getting that nice break at home, we all reported back to California to begin our next training block. This next tournament we were about to play in, the World Cup, was the first qualification for the Olympics. Little did I know that this was going to be one of the hardest tournaments I would ever play in. The coaching staff kept reminding us that we would be playing 11 matches in 15 days. I was like okay this isn't much different from other tournaments like Grand Prix...but man was I wrong. The World Cup is by far the hardest - both physically and mentally - I have ever played in.
We started out with two very difficult teams, Brazil and Serbia. We had just recently beat both of them at Grand Prix, so we knew that they would both be difficult games. Leading up to these two matches, I had a lot of anxiety as a player because we had been training for so long for this tournament and I didn't want to let my teammates down. I was trying to find the best way to both mentally and physically prepare myself while trying not to over think things at the same time and just go play. This is a constant battle for me, trying to prepare but not over think the game. I play my best when I am having fun with a game plan in mind.
Thanks to a wonderful team effort we were fortunate to win both of these games. I think the one thing that always calms me as a player is that I am not alone out there! I have 5/6 other people out there that always have my back. This is why I believe volleyball is the ultimate team sport and the relationships I build with all my teammates is why I love the game so much. We kept rolling after that and we beat the next two teams on our schedule, Korea and Kenya.
We were on a high until the German team kept us grounded. We got swept in 3. They played a great match and we just couldn't respond. This did not affect our goal, but it did help us refocus to keep pushing through this tournament.
We were sitting in second place most of the tournament right behind Italy, who was undefeated. We didn't face Italy until the second to the last match. We had to win this match in order to guarantee us a spot in the Olympics. It was such a emotionally intense match. I love and truly enjoy playing in matches like this. There is a lot of pressure and I am nervous before it starts, but it is nice to be able to go to battle with such a great team. We ended up winning in four, which guaranteed us a spot in the 2012 LONDON OLYMPICS!!!!!
This has been a dream of mine and every time I think about it it gives me goosebumps. To think that I have thought about this since I was 12 years old. I am one step closer to actually making the Olympics. Wow!! :)
After beating Italy we were sitting in first place. We played Japan to win it all, but we feel short. Japan always plays great at home in front of their fans and we just couldn't respond. Even though we didn't win, we still got silver and qualified for the Olympics. It would have been nice to win, but it was definitely a relief to qualify.
At this point Italy, USA, China, and the host team are qualified for the Olympics. The remaining eight teams will be determined through additional tournaments.
After we finished the World cup.... It was time to say goodbye to all of my American teammates as we all go our separate ways and meet up again next year. It is hard to leave the girls since you spend so much time together and share in such great memories. In going our separate ways, some of us left straight from Japan and some of us got to go home for a couple of days. I was one of the lucky ones that was able to go home for a few days. We landed in LAX on the 19th of November and I flew back to Nebraska the same day. I got to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and eat lots of turkey. It was great to see so many of my family since it is rare that I am home. I got to spend the next four days with my husband and I left for Russia the day after Thanksgiving.
Our flight to Russia usually takes us about a full day. After leaving Nebraska we had a layover in Chicago which allowed us to grab one last American meal and watch the Nebraska football game. From here we traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, and then on to Moscow. After clearing customs in Moscow we had one more short flight to Kazan. Finally, after a long day we made it safely to our new apartment in Kazan.
This is my third season with this team and I have been lucky in that every year I have upgraded to newer apartments. (pictures below) The next day we went to the store with our team manager and translator Kirill. The first year we came here he was a translator who spoke very little English. How does that work?! He has come a long ways since that day and it has been nice to see how he has progressed.
We got settled and within a couple of days we had our first game. This game was different than the ones I have played in the past. Since we won the Russian league last year it qualified us for a different league this year. This league is called Champions League. It is a collection of teams from all over Europe who have also finished first or second in their league. This means instead of only playing one Russian Championship game a week we are also playing teams from all over Europe during the week. Our first champions league game was at home against a team from the Czech Republic. We won in five, but it was not pretty. This team shouldn't have been competing with us. We were the better team, but we were still working out the problems and getting used to playing together again.
We then had the next day off, which was nice to be able to relax and get our apartment situated. It wasn't long and we were preparing to play again. We traveled to Moscow to play a team there and we won four. It was a better performance on our part, but we still needed to work some things out.
We didn't have time to think about this game because the next day we were off to Gydansk, Poland. This is where two of my American teammates play, Alisha Glass and Megan Hodge. We arrived two nights before we played them and had a chance to go watch them play. It was great to see them but of course weird to see them with another team. I was able to say a quick hello to them after the game, then it was back to the hotel to prepare for the match coming up. Their team's name is Atom Sopot. They are a very talented team, not just because of Megan and Alisha, but they also have two players from the German national team and a Turkish outside hitter. It was for sure going to be a tough match and it was going to test our team. We ended up matching up against them nicely, played our best game thus far and beat them in three. We will play them again in Kazan on the 11th of January. It will be interesting to see what they do differently and if we can play at the same level of consistency.
After the game Luke and I were able to go out to dinner with Alisha and Megan. We joined them at a little Italian restaurant and shared in some good conversation and pizza. It was nice to have a little English speaking in our lives. If you would like to watch our champions league games just go to www.laola.tv1.com and they will have live streams of our games. We usually play on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
That is all for now... I will keep you updated on our eventful December as we travel to Switzerland and get to celebrate Christmas in Russia with American outside hitter Reid Priddy and his family. To all my family, friends, and teammates...know that I am thinking about you wherever you are in the World. Happy Holidays! May you truly understand the reason for the season. Dream Big & Never Settle!