WMNS VOLLEYBALL STOCK PHOTO 1

Big things are expected of the Western Mustangs volleyball team this year. As one of the top teams in the nation, the expectations are sky high for the team that has won back-to-back Ontario University Athletics bronze medals.

This year, in an effort to compete against professional European volleyball teams and expand the experiences of the student athletes, the team will be travelling to Europe over the Christmas break.

Fundraising efforts began in the summer to raise some of the funds to make the trip overseas.

The trip, which begins when the team lands in Amsterdam on Dec. 26 and ends when they return on Jan. 7, is centred around the opportunity for the team to compete in a historic 68-year old professional volleyball tournament in Amsterdam.

To raise funds for the trip, the team is planning a number of events as well as applying to a grant for female Canadian athletes.

“We applied for a grant for female athletes in sport that one of our athletes told me about and signed us up for," said Melissa Bartlett, head coach of the women's volleyball program. "It’s called the Women’s Championship Fund and it’s run by Canada’s Dairy Farmers and they’re giving out 25 scholarships, each worth $5,000."

The team also held a fundraising beach volleyball tournament in Port Stanley over the summer which was attended by 90 participants.

"We’re hosting a high school and club tournament in early December with two days that our athletes will be running and refereeing and scorekeeping," Bartlett said. "One of the initiatives we’re also taking this year is running clinics for high schools and elementary schools."

The clinics will include a skills clinic at London schools led by Bartlett and two of her athletes, as well as the opportunity for students in London to attend Mustangs games and meet the teams.

Bartlett hopes that the trip will not only be a fun experience for her players but will also provide them with a higher level of competition than they receive in Ontario. It will also be beneficial for recruiting in the future.

The trip will include stops in Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona and will include matches with professional teams across Europe.

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