Nov. 12, 2014
WASHINGTON - Many people travel overseas during the summer months, usually for work or vacation, but few have the opportunity to travel internationally to compete in the sport they love. Sophomore setter Caitlin Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge), of the Georgetown volleyball team, received such an opportunity this past summer when she crossed the Atlantic Ocean in July to compete in the European Global Challenge in Croatia.
The European Global Challenge is a four-day tournament featuring 12 teams, six from the United States and six from European countries. Brauneis joined other Division I volleyball players, hailing from Illinois and Wisconsin, on the BIP Adidas Midwest team. The team was coached by Brauneis' coach from her old club team, Club Fusion.
"It was very different, but at the same time, really cool because of our team dynamic," Brauneis said. "We had three girls from my old club that I hadn't played with before because they are a year older than me. Then we had three girls from our rival club that I have played against since I was 13. Getting on a plane with them and putting on the same jersey was different, but we ended up loving playing with each other.
"Getting to play for [my old coach] again was awesome. I played for him before coming to Georgetown and he actually trained me as a setter my freshman year of high school when I switched over from an outside hitter. We have always had a really good relationship so being able to go back and play for him was really cool."
The Midwest squad started the tournament with three three-set round robin matches over the first two days. They finished the opening round with a 1-2 record, defeating Hungary 3-0 but falling to teams from Slovenia and Italy by 2-1 scores. The results brought a rematch with the Italian squad in a challenge match, with the winner moving on to the championship round. Brauneis and her teammates bounced back for a 3-2 win over Italy to advance to the quarterfinals. The Midwest moved on with a 3-1 win over another American team featuring various Division I student-athletes, but fell in the semifinals to the USA Collegiate National team. They lost in the Mountain West Conference All-Stars in a consolation match to finish the tournament in fourth place overall.
"Getting to the semifinals was a really cool experience. After the first two days, we did not expect to get that far. We just did not play well and were still getting used to each other. Once we hit those elimination games however, the whole team just clicked and we really started playing well together."
The international competition was not only a great experience, but it benefited Brauneis when she returned to the Hilltop for her sophomore season. Through Georgetown's first 18 matches, Brauneis was ranking among the BIG EAST leaders with 9.65 assists per set. She was also on pace to record more than double her kills total from her freshman season.
"Overall, international volleyball is played with a much bigger focus on the offensive side of the game," Brauneis said. "The experience definitely taught me how to adjust to different playing styles on the fly, unlike here where we have a game plan and know what type of play to expect."
Unfortunately, Brauneis' 2014 season was cut short due to an injury. Despite not being able to contribute on the court, Brauneis has been instrumental in helping freshman Casey Speer (Durham, N.C./Riverside) step into the setter position and become familiar with the Hoyas' offensive system and hitters tendencies.
"I am really happy that Caitlin was able to have the opportunity to play in the European Global Challenge this summer," said Georgetown Head Coach Arlisa Williams. "The experience she received was showing in her results for us during the first half of the season. Unfortunately, an injury has her sidelined. However, she continues to pull on that knowledge as she encourages Casey Speer, who has stepped into the setting role."