Aug. 24, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

Day 5

Dear USA WJNT Families and Friends,

Last night's match against Nicaragua was unforgettable... for a number of reasons. 

When we got to the gym, Cuba was in a battle with Mexico.  Mexico ended up winning the match in five close sets.  We started our match a little late because the first match ran long.  We jumped out to an early lead (about 16-7), when the lights just shut off.  The referees had a little discussion and then they talked to the coaches to let them know we would have to wait until the lights came back on.  After ten minutes or so, the lights began to flicker... the match was going to start again!  And then it hit.  First thunder, then lightning.  The lights went back out.  More thunder, and that's when the fun really started.  Rain and wind, coming directly into the gym.  Since there are four "doors" or random holes in the walls, in addition to the blocks of open ceiling covered by black plastic, added to the holes in the roof... it was literally raining in the dark gym.  The workers began putting newspapers on the floor to soak up water, they grabbed every available mop in an attempt to spread the water, and they threw gatorade coolers out to catch the water where there were holes in the roof.  CLASSIC!!  At first out girls sat down, but 30 or 45 minutes into the rain they got bored.  They started it off with a game of ninja where they stand in a circle trying to slap each others hands.  

Then they moved to a congo line that danced around the gym giving the fans something to entertain them (it's only fair since they were there to watch something).  After the congo line died out, they moved to "imaginary fried pancake."  Each girl pretends to fry a pancake in a frying pan, then flips it to a teammate, or throws it across the gym.  After the crowd starting cheering every time one of our girls caught the "imaginary pancake," our girls had the great idea to involve the crowd.  First they threw the pancake to Trinidad and Tobago.  One of their girls jumped up, made a fist and the crowd went wild.  Trinidad threw it back, Kelsey caught it, and then they passed it to a little girl in the stands!  She threw it back (let me tell you, we barely caught that one), then we tossed it to Nicaragua.  This went on for a good 30 minutes.  The entire crowd clapped and cheered every single time someone "caught" this imaginary pancake.  Unbelievable what the imagination can do.  Two hours later, the lights began to flicker.  The match was on.  As Wash went back to serve, the referee put his whistle in his mouth and wait... what's that?  

Stray cats!!!!!!!!  The poor little kitties had run into the gym to get out of the rain.  And now one was on the court.  Kizzie ran around chasing it off, and the linesman rapidly waved his flag until the cat finally ran back up into the crowd.  Match on.  USA went on to win game 1, and won games 2 and 3 with scores of 25-7, 25-7. 

We play the Dominican Republic tonight in the semi-finals.  The other semi-final match is Mexico-Costa Rica.  Only three teams qualify for the World Championships in the Czech Republic.  It should be a great night!

The Dominican Republic is a strong team.  We need to play well.  Let's go USA!!!!!!!!  

Until tomorrow,

Alex Dunphy 

Day 4

Dear USA WJNT Families and Friends,

Yesterday was a great day.  We had a quick practice then returned to the hotel.  Following the HP Championships, the girls decided to bring clothing, gifts and medical supplies to Nicaragua to donate to a local orphanage or shelter.  Fortunately, Rod's friend Brooke now lives in Nicaragua and works with a women's group, Hope in Action.  After lunch, Brooke spoke to the group about life in Managua, and two ladies who were helped by Hope in Action spoke to the team as well.  They shared their personal stories and the girls were moved.  The ladies explained that their homes were flooded in 2008 and they were forced to move to the country with nothing.  The government stepped in and provided them with a well of contaminated water, 6 wood sticks, and plastic to build their homes.  Today, they still live in those homes (about 10 feet by 10 feet).  They still drink contaminated water and it's hurting their children (one of the ladies brought her son to show how the water had hurt his skin).  Their husbands work and make less than $40 every 15 days.  Hope in Action goes into villages and teaches women skills and how to make crafts to sell to support their families.  The women brought a few items to sell (wallets and purses for about $3 dollars).  After they finished their stories the girls purchased some of their crafts and presented them with the items they brought from the United States.  The girls asked many questions and were interested to learn about the government and culture in Nicaragua. 

Later in the day, we took off to play Cuba.  Cuba jumped out to an early lead and stole the first set.  We made a few tactical changes and we were able to take the next three games.  Game 3 was very exciting with the entire gym chanting CUU-BAA, CUU-BAA for nearly ten points.  It was so loud at one point it was difficult to hear the person next to you!  But the girls hung in there and pulled out a win!  This means that we play Nicaragua this evening (in the feature match) at 8:00pm.  

This morning we went through video by position so the girls had a chance to watch film of themselves.  The coaches provided technical suggestions, and discussed the upcoming match.  

In other news, everything has been great in terms of food and housing.  The hotel is clean, has air conditioning (extremely rare), and gets a pretty strong wifi signal every 30 minutes or so.  Burger King is right down the street and proudly displays signs for wifi.  Last night Charlene told me the hotel is probably stealing wifi from Burger King!  She's been on a ton of USA trips, so I feel it's safe to trust her judgement.  Food is still going strong.  My personal favorite was dinner... Chicken Lasanga-Enchilladas.  I'd have to say nobody has ever had that combo before, but it was great!  We also had a great dessert... and we're pretty sure it was a form of key lime pie.  Kelly thought it was mango, Wash thought it was lemon, and Dr. Tu thought it was lime.  Either every person got a different flavor or we were just really excited for pie!  Yesterday the breakfast was french toast, loaded with sugar.  This morning we were going through the line and everyone got really excited for french toast sticks... that is, until Charlene bit in and realized they were fried hunks of cheese.  Merete then comes to the front of the line and Charlene asked her to make sure the girls knew they were cheese and only to grab them if they really wanted cheese.  Merete turns to Faunt and says hey, the french toast sticks are cheese today!  Not sure she really got the point across...

The twins have a big birthday coming up tomorrow so Charlene, Dr. Tu and I decided to order a cake with Happy Birthday written on the top.  Unfortunately, the people at the bakery didn't speak English.  At 8:00pm tomorrow night, it will be really interesting to see what is waiting for us!

Time to get ready for our quarterfinal match!

Alex Dunphy

Day 3

Dear USA WJNT Families and Friends,

Today was just another day in Managua, Nicaragua.  We started off with tradition... breakfast, lunch, practice.  Something great happened at practice today.  There is a nice man by the name of Casper that works at the gym.  He told us on day 1 that we could remember his name because it's just like Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Ever since that inital meeting, he's been just that... friendly.  Today I saw Coach Blaine walk over to him and hand him a backpack.  Blaine had filled the backpack with his own shorts and t-shirts for Casper.  What a great gesture.  Other than that, the practice had a little more spice than usual as the DJ (the guy that plays music during timeouts) was using our practice time to give his tunes a test drive!  Rod had some great drills lined up and the girls played hard.  As I've mentioned before, it gets a little warm in the gym.  But, the girls haven't mentioned it once!  We have a tough group and I hope they continue to do their best through the rest of the tournament.     

After practice we headed back to the hotel for some R&R.  The team joined together to watch the Hunger Games (seems to be a crowd favorite).  Even Charlene and Dr. Tu were discussing the skills they would use to stay alive if they were selected to fight - Hunger Games style!  Since the girls won't have any time from here on out to shop, McKenzie's Mom offered to go back to the flea market to pick up gifts that the girls still needed!  Hopefully she found everything before it got dark!  The rest of us went to take some video of Cuba.  The video is all set up and ready to go so I thought I'd squeeze out a short email before the girls pour into the room singing whatever they caught from the DJ this afternoon.  

Tomorrow we will head over for serve and pass at 10:30am.  We play Cuba tomorrow night at 6:00pm.

Let's go USA!  Be on the lookout for blogs from the girls.  I'll be sending them over to the USA Volleyball staff as soon as the girls finish up! 

All the best,

Alex Dunphy

Day 2

Dear USA WJNT Families and Friends,

Update number two from Managua!  Coach Wilde asked me to send another short email to let you know how the team is doing.  From this point forward, I want to encourage you to follow the team on the USA Volleyball website.  The USAV staff does a great job covering the team, so please be sure to check it out!

We had a short serve and pass this morning just after breakfast.  A few parents were kind enough to join us along with a number of casual spectators.  The girls seemed to be very focused and ready to play.  We got in, got it done, and headed back to the hotel to rest.  After a couple hours and a couple significant shifts in the weather (warm and sticky to tropical thunder to light showers to warm and sticky), we were ready to leave for the match!  After we loaded up the bus, we heard police sirens quickly approaching... our police escort had arrived!!  Two motorcycle police officers escorted us through traffic.  If we were in the US, they probably would have let us run red lights!  In Managua, since there are no street signs or lights, they let us pass the horses and people walking in the streets, but the girls loved it just the same.  We got to the gym, ran through a brief warm up, then started the match.  The match ended with a three set victory.  Coach Wilde wanted to make sure that every girl had the opportunity to contribute, and he made it happen.  Mostly, he wanted each girl to have some international experience before heading into the match against Cuba.  Following the match, the girls changed into their Mizuno game suits and marched in the tournament´s opening ceremony.  All nine countries were recognized by the Head of NORCECA and the Vice President of the FIVB.  As always, the girls were respectful and polite.  The ride back home was a different story!!!  As soon as the bus started rolling, Blaine, Dr. Tu, Charlene, Rod and I were seranaded by every song the girls could think of from Bon Jovi to the Sound of Music!  At one point they even broke into a round.

Tomorrow we practice at 1:30pm.  We are preparing for our match against Cuba, who we play in two days.  Cuba is a solid team, so it should be a great match.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at any time.  I know a number of the girls were trying to get on the internet today to get in contact with family, but the internet at the hotel has been out of service.  Don´t worry... they are all happy and healthy and doing a great job!


Alex Dunphy