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The Kansas volleyball team visits the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain on May 29.

Nothing screams Italian dessert like gelato, and the Kansas volleyball players ate their fair share during their summer Europe tour

“There were a couple kids who surprised me with the amount of gelato you can eat on one trip,” coach Ray Bechard said jokingly. “I’m not going to point any of those people out, though.”

During their stay, they absorbed all parts of the Spanish, French and Italian cultures, including food. But going to Europe did more for the Jayhawks than expose their palates to foreign cuisines. 

Learning about the European culture of volleyball was one of Cassie Wait's favorite things.

“[The trip] was incredible for so many reasons,” Wait, a junior libero, said. “First, just to see the culture of volleyball, being a world thing is super important for us. It shows us that there are opportunities after college to play overseas."

But although the culture of volleyball in Europe is strong, the arenas that the team played in during the trip didn't compare to the grandeur of Horejsi Family Athletics Center and Allen Fieldhouse. Even so, Wait said the commitment and dedication of the European players was something she looks up to.

“They have two-a-days all the time,” Wait said. “They play every single day all year.”

While in France, the Jayhawks became close to the French team they sparred against. 

“When we played in France, we had to communicate over Google Translate on our phones,” said Tayler Soucie, a junior outside hitter. “It was fun to try to communicate that way. They were so energetic. We traded jerseys at the end when we left France and they gave us big hugs. They were so excited and thought that it was the coolest thing.”

Not only did the Jayhawks build relationships with some of their opponents, they also became more of a tight-knit team. 

The girls spent every moment of every day during the trip together. The only alone time the girls had was while they were sleeping.

“[Europe] ignited our team chemistry,” Soucie said. “We became so close over that trip.” 

Senior outside hitter Tiana Dockery agreed, saying that Europe brought the entire team together both off and on the court.

“We had to learn about each other,” Dockery said. “We were on the bus here, there, wherever learning each other’s personalities. It gave us the opportunities to hang out with one another and learn what each other liked. Once we started playing on the court, we were able to learn how each other plays and build up our chemistry.” 

Looking back on the experience, the word that Wait, Soucie and Dockery continued to use was blessed.

“It shows me how we’re blessed,” Soucie said. “It all makes me feel so blessed.”

— Edited by Emma LeGault