BEVERLY, Mass. – Endicott men's and women's volleyball student-athletes Bryn Lipton (Rockford, Ill.) and Colleen McAvoy (Coventry, Conn.) recently traveled to Brazil to compete with USA Sports. Here is what the duo had to say about their experiences.
ECGULLS: Please describe the overall experience of your trip to Brazil.
BL: Having the opportunity to travel to, and around, Brazil was a once in a lifetime experience. Having the chance to immerse myself in a different culture and expose myself to different customs, a different language, and a completely different way of life was eye-opening for me. Additionally, being able to compete alongside both familiar and unfamiliar faces from around NCAA Division III volleyball was incredible.
CM: Overall, this experience turned out to be better than I ever could have imagined. There were so many opportunities to experience something new, whether it was the culture, the language, or anything else.
ECGULLS: What was/were your favorite spot(s) that you visited?
CM: My favorite spot that we visited was Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio. This was my favorite because on the top of the mountain there were incredible views of all of Rio and of Copacabana Beach.
BL: There were few locations along the trip that topped our 50-yard walk to Copacabana Beach. However, visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue and exploring Sugar Loaf Mountain made up the remaining top three sports for me during the trip.
ECGULLS: Do you have a favorite moment from the trip?
BL: Though the match results don't support it, traveling to the Olympic Training Center and competing against one of the most talented teams in Brazil was an amazing opportunity.
CM: My favorite moment from the trip was trading jerseys with the teams that we played. It was so cool being able to give USA gear and to receive gear from Brazil. The young women from Brazil were so excited to talk to us after the games and to trade jerseys and shirts with us.
ECGULLS: How was the level of competition and what did you learn from your time spent there that you will bring back with you?
CM: We played some of the best teams in Brazil, one of which was the Brazil Nationals Select team. This team was the best that we played and it was such an amazing opportunity getting to play against them. These women are training for the Olympics so being able to go to their training facility and to play against them was an honor. From this experience, I learned that not everyone has the best facilities to train in and sometimes people might not have access to a gym, but they make do with what they have. Their ability and skill correlate with the amount of training that they put in, not necessarily where they play.
BL: Going off of the last question, competing against athletes that are training to become Brazil's next Olympians was mind-boggling. It opened my eyes to a whole new level of volleyball and athletic talent.
ECGULLS: Where were your teammates and coaches from?
BL: My team was made up of athletes from all over the country. They came from schools such as Cal Lutheran, MSOE, Juniata, Southern Virginia, Kean, and Aurora University. Our coach was Dan Liberto, who coaches at Marymount, down near D.C. He led us to a 2-2 record overall, as we earned some solid wins against talented local teams.
CM: My teammates were from schools in California, Iowa, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Two of my teammates go to school at Christopher Newport and we will be playing against each other when we travel to Georgia this fall for a trip, which is very exciting! Our coach, Jenna Panatier, just finished her coaching career as the head coach at UC La Verne. She was an amazing coach and really made sure we were always having fun throughout our time there.
ECGULLS: What would be your advice to someone who is in consideration to be selected for a trip like this?
CM: My advice is to be a giver and to be selfless. They look for people who are going to be great teammates, opponents, and friends. If you're not giving your time and energy to the sport and to your team, then you probably won't be selected for one of these trips.
BL: Don't second guess it, take the opportunity. This kind of trip that allows you to explore a completely foreign part of the world while scheduling time to compete in high-level athletics is only able to be done once or twice in a lifetime, if you are lucky. Additionally, the connections and friendships that you make along the way allow the trip to become that much more memorable. I passed up an opportunity once to go and kicked myself for doing so. Going on this trip is hands down one of the best, if not the best, the experience of my life so far.
ECGULLS: Is there anything else that you would like us to note?
BL: With the exchange rate weighted so favorably for the US dollar, the exchange rate allows you to live like a king while you are down there, if that helps to persuade anyone making this decision.
ABOUT USA SPORTS TOURS
The USA DIII volleyball teams are made up of invited NCAA DIII men's & women's student-athletes from around the country. These particular teams consisted of AVCA All-American and All-Region honorees, as well as various All-Conference members. The 10 men's student-athletes represented seven institutions and came from nine different states, while the women's roster represented six institutions and six different states.
(Photo Credit - Bryn Lipton/Colleen McAvoy)