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Bedell and Team USA Grab Gold
Hawkeye sophomore and USA Volleyball win the European Global Challenge
Sophomore Rachael Bedell collected 189 kills in her freshman campaign (2010).
Sophomore Rachael Bedell collected 189 kills in her freshman campaign (2010).
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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa freshman Rachael Bedell, a member of USA Volleyball Women's Junior A2-Europe Program, helped lead Team USA to a 3-1 win over Czech Republic today in the gold medal game of the European Global Challenge.

Team USA posted a 6-3 record during the nine-day European tour. The United State posted wins over Great Britain, Montenegro and Croatia to advance to the gold medal round. Team USA defeated Italy in the quarterfinals and avenged round robin losses to Slovenia and Czech Republic in the semifinals and finals to claim the European Global Challenge championship.

Bedell is one of two Hawkeyes to compete for Team USA this summer. Freshman Bethany Yeager was selected to the USA Women's Junior A2 Program. Yeager's team will compete in the International Junior Division of the USA High Performance Championships in Tucson, Ariz., July 26-29.

Editor's Note -- Below is Bedell's blog from the European Global Challenge. Check back with hawkeyesports.com to follow Yeager through the USA High Performance Championships.

July 22
The final day in Croatia was a very successful one. We didn't play until 5 p.m., so we had the full day to do what we wanted to. We walked around the major square in Pula to get some shopping done and then headed back to the hotel to get some rest before the game. The final match was amazing, even more so because we won it all. Afterwards we had a final ceremony where we all got our medals and awards, (our middle got MVP of the tournament!) We were all excited about how well we had come together as a team and be able to come together so quickly to win the Global Challenge. It was all very exciting and one of the highlights of my trip.

Another major highlight actually came from the night before. One of the coaches who I know very well had tickets to the Harry Potter premier. He decided not to go, so my teammate and I got to go. That isn't the best part; the premiere was in the coliseum in the middle of Pula, Croatia. We got to watch the premier with thousands of people inside one of the four withstanding coliseums in the world. The experience was beyond amazing!

Today, we started off early to get on a bus to head to Venice, Italy. We stopped halfway through to grab something to eat and got back on the road. We got to our hotel, dropped everything off and headed into the heart of Venice. The transportation in Venice decided to strike today, so we were going to be stranded inside Venice for a couple hours, but we were more than okay with that. We walked around looking through every shop at all of the beautiful glass items. We stopped in for some pizza but kept on shopping. We met as a group in San Marcos Plaza to take a group picture and then had a little more time to finish up our evening. We then got some gelato and crepes to finish off the day. We all headed back to the hotel with an amazing of experience of Venice behind us.

We were all upset to have to say bye to each other since we had all grown so close these past two weeks, but we are all ready to head back to the States! I am excited to get back with the team and get ready for upcoming preseason!

Thank you guys for reading this, I had a blast on this trip and I was so glad I could share it with y'all!

July 20
The past two days have not been too eventful since we have been in the middle of the tournament. We started off Day 7 by playing a Slovenian team. We took the first game from them, but couldn't come back for the next two. We knew that our cross over match that night was crucial to stay in it all, so we headed back to the hotel to grab lunch. After lunch, the roommates and I headed to the beach and got a good nap in under the sun. We then headed back to the gym for our night match against the home Pula, Croatia, team. It was a fun game that we won 3-0 to advance to the Gold bracket. We ended the night by going to a little pizzeria and got amazing brick oven pizza.

Day 8 was an exciting day of volleyball. We started off by playing a team from Italy. Today was the first day that we played best-of-five, so we really wanted to get the game done in three. We had a slow start but ended the match winning 3-0. We were really excited because we knew at that point if we won our night game we would be in the finals. We got back to hotel and had some lunch and just hung out with each other. We also all took some naps and went to a little market by the hotel to get some snacks.

After our break time, we went back to the gym to prepare to face Slovenia for a second time. We won the first game and headed into the second game ready to play. We were down 18-23 but came back to win in the second game, taking the momentum to win the third game. We were absolutely ecstatic to have worked our way into the finals! The parents who are here treated us to some pizza from another delicious pizzeria.

We are all just very excited to be in the finals tomorrow night. We play Czech Republic who we lost to the first day, but feel like we have gotten better and are ready to take them on for the Gold! We play here for the Championship and then head to Venice, Italy the next morning for our last night! Wish us luck!!

July 18
Day 5 involved pure travel. We started out the day with a 4:30 a.m. wakeup and piled into a tiny bus to make a three-hour drive to the London airport. This airport had the craziest luggage rules and strict security, but we all made it through. I also got to try a crepe for the first time, which was delicious! From here we flew into Trieste, Italy, and got into another van for another 3-hour drive to Pula, Croatia. On the drive to Croatia, we stopped in Slovenia to get some gelato, which was amazing. Getting into the second bus of the day seemed like a drag after all the traveling, but we were all entertained by the gorgeous views the whole drive. We finally arrived in Pula and had some lunch.

We later got our rooms and started to get ready for that night's opening ceremonies. My roommates and I got ready fast and headed down to the beach (which was a two minute walk from our hotel) to see the view. It was absolutely gorgeous. We then headed to the opening ceremonies in the square of Pula. It was full of little shops and vendors and beautiful rustic buildings. After some looking around, the ceremonies began with a Pula ritual dance; we were then introduced with the 11 other teams participating in the 2011 Global Challenge. We ended the night with another round of gelato and headed back to the hotel. After all the traveling we were ready for some sleep and to get some rest for the first day of the tournament.

Today, day 6, marked our first day of the Global Challenge games. We started off the day with breakfast and headed over to the gym. Our first game was against Montenegro, who we took in three games. There were three games played no matter the results of the first two. After our win, we watched our next competition and headed back for some lunch. We then went down to the beach for a little bit more sightseeing and sun.

Then it was time to head back to the gym for game 2. This game was against the Czech Republic, who was one of the major teams to beat on the European side. We started off the match strong and won the first game. We then went on kind of a slump, losing the next two games closely. We were all very upset about the loss but knew we had to get past it to compete the next day. We later grabbed some dinner at the hotel and spent some leisure time with each other before we headed to bed to rest for day 7.

We play at noon today and then there is a cross over match in the evening. We need to win our morning match to be put in the Gold bracket for the last two days, so wish us luck!

July 16
Yesterday, day 3, was our second training day and our first match against Great Britain. We started off the day with breakfast and headed over to practice. We had a tough practice and headed back to the hotel for a late lunch and a short break before it was game time. We met downstairs later that evening and were ready and excited to play our first match together. We started off the match a little slow and lost the first 2 games. We battled hard in the third game and came out on top 29-27. We then excelled the next two games to take over the match in five sets. It was really fun to see our team progress by each game. After our win, we headed back to the hotel for a late dinner and headed to bed because we had another long day ahead of us.

Today was our last day in Sheffield, England. We started off the day with the usual breakfast routine and then had about two hours until we left for practice. When we met downstairs, we had a change up in routine since it was raining so we got to experience our first taxi ride in England! We started off practice with a good "Bernie" dance from one of our players and were ready to go. We had practice for two hours where we had a fast paced scrimmage and got ready for tonight's match. We headed back to our hotel to have lunch. After lunch, I passed out getting some rest to be ready for the nights match. After our break we were ready to head back to the gym to take on Great Britain for the second time.

We started off today a lot stronger, however couldn't pull out the match. We had a tough last game finishing the match at 31-33. Even though we lost it was really fun to be a part of and see the team mesh more. It was tough to lose, but we felt better about ourselves as a team and really saw that we fought the whole match.

After a great stay in Sheffield, we are ready to pack up and head over to Croatia! We have an early morning ahead of us along with a long travel day but I know we are all excited to get over to Pula and compete in the Global Challenge. And I can't help but admit I am excited to see how beautiful I hear Croatia is. I'll keep y'all updated on how we do and be sure to send pictures of Pula!

July 14
Yesterday I landed in London and, after putting my luggage on the bus, myself and four other girls headed downtown on the "tube" which is London's subway. Our first stop was Trafalgar Square, which I personally was very excited about because that is where the Harry Potter Movie premiered. We then headed to Buckingham Palace and saw Big Ben on the way. Unfortunately the guards were not outside to take pictures with but there were many other photo opportunities.

Next stop was Harrods, which is a very swanky, famous mall. Inside there was an amazing bakery where I treated myself to a delicious red velvet cupcake. By now we were exhausted -- jet lag kicking in -- and our legs felt the many miles we had walked, so we went to McDonald's to rest and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi to touch base with people back home. We then loaded the bus for Sheffield, England, our home for the next three days. We made it to our hotel around midnight and I had the hardest time staying asleep because my body was telling me it was six hours earlier.

Today was the first day of volleyball with our first team practice. We actually came together as a team pretty easily; I feel the team is pretty amazing with such great players. We were a little tired and out of it from the travel the day before but once we got settled down and got the errors out of our system we started to look pretty good.

After lunch and a short break, we scrimmaged the British National Team. I know I was excited to see the team, because I had no idea what to expect. They seemed quite a bit older than us and have a different way of playing the ball -- as well as personal mechanics -- so at first it was hard to adjust to this new style. We won two of the three games we played, so we came out on top for the day, which was exciting.

By the end of the day, we were all absolutely dead and very ready to head back to the hotel. However, first we watched Santiago play a little game of "set the ball in the basketball hoop" for a few of the girls who were late. The girls beat Santiago after a double or nothing rematch, so they were happy to come out with no punishment and we got a good laugh too.

Two more days of practice and playing the British National Team in Sheffield and then we head off to Croatia for the Global Challenge! Ill update y'all on how the other two days go, hopefully I'll be reporting some winning news! Just want to wish my Iowa Hawkeye team luck and some fun for the upcoming camp, I miss yall!

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