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Joyeux Action de Graces


Haaaappy Thanksgiving Family, Friends, all of you who are West of the Atlantic, and even those currently in the same time zone as I. Oh the Holiday Season is upon us and I can't tell you how much I love this time of the year! Since Europe obviously doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, the Christmas decorations have been put up around our quaint littlle town of Venelles. Christmas booths in Aix opened up about a week ago, and it is finally socially acceptable to blast Christmas music in the car!

What a time to be alive.


I thought I'd give a quick update of the latest happenings here in Aix. As you know, I am back in the South of France for my second year with Pays d'Aix Venelles in Aix en Provence. We just had a massive win over Volero Le Cannet in five sets this past Friday. It was one hell of a battle and lasted nearly three hours.

Volero initially played in the Swiss League, and crushed every team that ever went up against them. They've historically been one of the best teams in all of Europe holding an impressive roster of some of the best players in the world. The famous purple and gold jerseys play in CEV Cup and even Champions League: The highest qualifying club league in Europe.

Two years ago, they merged with a top team from France: Le Cannet. Le Cannet was already a success in their own right, holding a consistent top placement in the French League.

Now that the two teams have come together, they're one hell of a powerhouse.

But the level overall in France has simultaneously become immensely competitive these past years, and now teams like Cannes, Mulhouse, and Nantes have taken over as the top teams to beat. It just shows the growing competitiveness in this world. That's the beauty of the life as a professional volleyball player. Everyone, is good

But this win over Volero specifically carried so much more meaning to me. It was in Switzerland where I started my whole pro career. At the time, I was a wide eyed young player, newly exposed to the circuit playing in Fribourg, Swtizerland. Volero first introduced me to the vast world of European volleyball. I learned the format of in-country competition, and that within each country's respective leagues, there are qualifications into higher tournaments, leagues, competitions. It was like opening a door to a whole new world.


Playing Volero back in 2014 meant that I got to play against World Champions, Gold Medalists, the leading athletes of European countries! I was introduced to *Challenge Cup, *CEV Cup competition, learned how *Champions League worked, and saw that there actually is an NBA, NFL, MLB for women on this side of the world. It unlocked an entirely new world of professional women's sports for me. A world that not everyone has the opportunity to be exposed to. I started playing pro because I wanted to travel and see the other side of the world. I wanted one last adventure before I get back on the path and start a career in the states.

But being here, in this world, opened my eyes into realizing that it was still in my capacity to improve as an athlete. It showed that there is a possibility of creating a career out of this. A possibility of living off of this. It opened the door for me. And I chose to walk through it. I am still playing this game, six years later, because of the day that I learned about Volero. So, beating them this past weekend, well it just made these past 6 years come full circle.

The fact that it was 100% earned, oh that made it so special.

Leading up to the weekend match, we spend hours during the week watching film of our opponent to formulate a game plan. We analyze tendencies and look for pockets of opportunity in both offense and defense. The goal is to become as familiar as possible with the players on the opposite side of the net, so that by the time we hit the court on Gameday, we're one step ahead of them.

Watching film on Volero's blocking turned out to be quite challenging. They changed their blocking tendencies against every single team they've played. And even then, within that game, they would change their tendencies every couple of points. This of course is just a testament to how well they're disciplined. It shows that they truly go into every match with a clear strategy. Seeing that there were only a couple tendencies to keep in my back pocket, I knew that the match was surely going to be one long chess match. Point by point. And you know what, this specific factor of the game made the win that much sweeter. The discipline it took to not just physically, but mentally outplay a quality team. Man, I truly couldn't be more proud.

The first and second sets of the match were definitely a battle, but we each respectively took over the score in our sets. The third set was the beginning of our point for point patterns. The third set was a tough loss as it ended for us falling short 26-28, but we still had the fire to bounce back.

The fourth set remained tight where we won 31-29 on the most beautiful block from our middle, Ciara. The crowd was on fire because we were actually down in the fourth, and came back for yet another battle to win it.

So by the time we got to that final 31st point, it was a thunder storm roaring on home court. Almost as if we had already won the entire match. "Alright girls, one more set let's finish this." The fifth set however did not start like we had planned. We ran into a small slump, while Volero went on to a 6 point run. At the switch (In the fifth tiebreak set, the teams play to 15, win by 2 points and switch sides once a team hits 8 points). we were down 2-8! I had no idea. But we chipped away and battled back.

By 6-10 we had a rally that seemed like it was just never going to end. We ended up winning the point thankfully! But I remember that we stood in the huddle for what must've been 45 seconds. (In a game, you usually celebrate for about ten seconds and then you've got to get back to setting up on the court, otherwise you risk getting a yellow card for delay of game.) But this point was something else. It was in the later part of the fifth set, so both sides were exhausted. I remember looking up to see if the ref was calling us to set up again, but I just saw across the net that Volero was also in a need of a quick breather.

When our right side, Monica got the kill to end the rally, we all just kinda stopped. I think we all tried to verbally put something out there, but physically I think our bodies damn near fell to the ground. All game we had been celebrating points with big jumps and expressive high fives. We were consistent for all kinds of broken body movements that come out when you're so so excited. But this point was more of a "Just survive." kind of cheer. I remember that I just started clapping. Couldn't jump, couldn't scream. If I did, I honestly think I would have thrown up. At this moment specifically, I remember actively telling myself to stay engaged. "Keep the focus Linds, Keep the focus."

The thing about volleyball is, you're never safe. Even if you're up by eight points, anything can happen. And this game was tight. Tighter than tight. We each had our own runs in the game, and it seemed that as the match went on, we had more and more long rallies! Each point that was won, was terribly terribly deserved.

I remember looking at Silvi, our Outside and saying "This is why we're here! This is why we do this!" So cheesy but seriously so so true.

These are the matches that you want to play in. The close nail biters where it's just constant battling back and forth with players all over the court defending and pushing. Man, these are the fun matches! And when you can finish with a big fat "W" in back your pocket, well that's just the cherry on top.

We ended up winning the next couple points, and then our middle had a MASSIVE single block straight down to the floor; the entire gym roared. It was now 9-10, and looking back at it, this was when we had the game. To tie it up, our libero, Marielle had a ridiculous dig. Our outside finished the point on a crazy 4 to 4 kill. (The outside hitting coming from left front zone 4 on our side, hitting cross court to zone 4 on the other side. Suuuper difficult swing.)

We were on fire.

Back and forth we went with a couple more epic kills on our side. It seemed like all of Venelles was celebrating. Everyone in the stands were on their feet screaming with the drums and cheering onto the court. The gym, was electric.

Then on the 14th point, I got a block. And I honestly think I flew in celebration a little bit.

Blocks, are the. best. feeling. in the. entire. world. I mean, THE BEST.

Game point was on our side, but they converted with a kill. It was 12-14, but I remember feeling more calm and confident than ever before.I could see it in everyone else's eyes too.They were in the same zen that I was in.

I remember looking at our outside hitter, 

SIlvi and thinking, "We're gunna win this."

The serve came over the net and we got a solid swing but they converted.

They set to position 4.

Their outside goes for high hands but misses.

Ball flies out of bounds.


We we beat Volero.

I've never been so stoked on a win before in my life. This was a massive career high for my personal journey. I just remember running straight to our libero, Marielle and giving her the biggest hug. This is her last year of playing, and I know how much this win meant to her as well. She deserved this. We all deserved this.

We love this life more than anything, but it definitely has its amount of grind in it. It's a long 9 month season, one where you just have to take it day by day.

It was a weird lead up to the game as well. Last weekend we had traveled to St. Raphael for a normal Saturday away match. It unfortunately got cancelled due to a storm flooding the streets an hour before we were supposed to go onto the court. Rescheduling became a headache as the other coach wanted to play the next day, or even that Tuesday during the week. The Federation took days to answer, so we started the week that we'd usually prepare solely for Volero, kind of preparing for St. Raphael as well. When we finally were told that the St. Raphael game would not happen, then we were able to turn our minds completely to Volero. We've been working so hard and as of late, the devil of injuries has also unfortunately hit our team in a bit of a collective way. With the lack of healthy bodies, playing 6 on 6 in practice, something crucial for preparing for Gameday, has been rather difficult to achieve this season. But we know to work with what we've got, and I couldn't be more proud of everyone for stepping up and pulling a little more out of themselves to get this win.

We always go up to VIP after the games for dinner and mingling with various sponsors and club members. Sidenote: I'm a big water drinker and not too much else. In France, the wine is something short of an absolute delicacy, so it's normal to finish a match with a glass of vin.

I however crave water like it's nobody's business after a match. And somehow, get reprimanded for it! It's so crazy to me that choosing water over wine is actually a bad thing here!

I'm all about celebrating, but every time I ask for water instead of wine I'm told, "No no no no, you're a professional athlete and here they drink wine." and I always respond with a confusing face saying "Yes, I am a professional athlete, so isn't this a good thing?"

It is indeed a celebratory atmosphere up in VIP, so I guess I can see how people want to share that excitement. This however I guess is just one of those beautiful and odd culture differences. This specific VIP night was quite comical as it held two opposing visuals of emotions. Everyone was still on a high from the win, drinking wine and chanting "Ici, Ici, ce Ve-nelles!" Everyone but any girl wearing their post-game Mizuno sweatpants.

We were all stoked to have gotten the win, but at this point, we were just Exhausted. Every person that came up to us could see it in our eyes, the desire for sleep.😅 People kept coming up to me with a pat on the back and high five saying Congrats! They each took their turn asking how I felt, and I left each of them with the same heartfelt response, I'm so tired, in the most beautiful way."

Here in Europe, there are Only club sports. so the structure of sports and athletics is a bit different. Like America, there are club sports that kids as young as 6 years old are able to play in. There is then a line of juniors teams that follow that.

We have our own respective leagues sorted by country. So right now, I'm playing in LNV LAF, the highest league in France .

When I played in Aachen, I played in the Bundesliga, the highest league in Germany, Every country has a different name for their country's league where the teams only play each other throughout that country. Beyond this is what's called the European Cup. There are three different levels of competition within the European Cup starting with the Challenge Cup, then above that being CEV Cup, and the top level of competition being Champions League. The top teams of their respective country's league then earn points in which qualifies them a certain number of spots within the European Cup. The country receives more points when their country's teams win games and go up into the next rounds throughout the Cup. So the farther you get in the Cup games, the more points and slots your country earns for the Cup the next year. The points at the end of the season decide how many spots, and in which of the three competitions the country gets for the following year.

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