The last days in Kazan were pretty hectic. Since we lost our pool matches, we were now playing for anywhere from ninth place to 12th. Our first match in the consolation was against Hong Kong, China. They play like a typical Asian team, with six defensive specialists on the court. It would be a tough game for us where we had to keep a cool head throughout the game.
In the first set our passing was really good, but we could not kill the ball and made too many mistakes, but we worked really hard and we caught up with them. It was really even in the end, but Hong Kong won the set 29-27. The next set we started strong and worked hard until the end and won 25-16. The next set, our attacking became our weakest link and we could not kill the ball because Hong Kong kept digging us. Again, they were too strong and won this set 25-20. The next set was even until the end and we kept fighting hard, but we couldn't seem to pull through and we lost 26-24. It was a tough loss for us, but we didn't have time to think too much about the game because the next day we played the United States.
Some of the girls stretching before the game
The team before the game
USA didn't send a National Team. Instead they sent a college team - Kansas State. The game was atthe next day, so we didn't get much rest between the matches and this became a bigger factor than we anticipated. Our start in the first set was very good. However, after a while USA found their rhythm and got in to a good position. We lost the set 25-22. The next set was a bad one for us. Even though we played really even, the score showed something else. USA won a lot of the long rallies and it was tough to keep up the energy. We lost the set 25-13. The next set was the same as the second set - we could not find our rhythm. We lost the set 25-11.
It was disappointing to lose both of the last games, considering how we played against Brazil and our other matches. We had surprised all of our opponents and shown that our top level of play is good enough to take some points from some of the best volleyball nations in the world.
After the game we only had three days left in Russia. We spent our free time doing some sightseeing, shopping and relaxing. We also got to watch the bronze and gold medal matches. The teams in the third-place match were Thailand and Poland. The average height of Thailand was 176 centimeters, so about 5-foot-8. Their best player was 5-9 and her topspin serve was the fastest one in the whole tournament at about 97 km/h (60 mph). It was really impressive to watch Thailand and how they used their skills and reading of the game to win the match, and it just shows that anything is possible! They won, 3-1, over Poland, which had an average height of about 6-2.
Thailand vs Poland
The teams in the final were Brazil and Russia. Russia had nine players that competed in the London Olympics. Brazil consisted of student players, but I'm not sure if any of them are on the real national team. However, the final was just like a final should be - five sets. It was so exciting to watch these players compete at that level. Even though the game was even throughout the match, Russia played really well in the final set and won the tournament.
We were also able to go and watch the beach volleyball final for men. It was so much fun! Poland ended up winning over Germany.
The next day we went downtown in Kazan. We visited a mosque, a church and a shopping area. It was fun to do some sightseeing along with all the sporting events.
Here are some pictures
Alicia and I dressed in the required attire.
Later in the day we watched the Norwegian basketball team play against USA. The Norwegian boys fought hard but ended up losing to the USA. Almost all of the players on the USA Basketball team are collegiate athletes like me. The culture and community of basketball isn't big in Norway.
Our last day in Kazan was spent on the grass outside of our house. Everyone was tired from everything we had done, so it was nice to sleep in and just relax. The next day we got up at 5 a.m. and left Kazan.
The things I got to experience here are still unbelievable to me. It's crazy to see photos and watch video and think that I was actually there doing all of this. It was an amazing experience and I hope reading my impression of it and looking at pictures will give motivation to continue to work hard. I will definitely work hard so that I am able to do all of this again. One day all your hard work will add up and it will most definitely be worth it, so keep reaching for your goals!