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Sophomore Hillary Trebels spent the summer playing abroad with the USA Jr. National volleyball team. A middle blocker from Arlington Heights, Ill., Trebels leads the Cavaliers this year with a .290 attack percentage and has blocked nine attacks in eight matches.

Virginia will return to Memorial Gymnasium this weekend to host NC State (Fri., 7 p.m.) and North Carolina (Sun., noon).

Question: What was the junior nationals program that you competed in this summer?
Trebels: This summer, I competed with USA Volleyball’s High Performance Program in Pula, Croatia at the Global Challenge tournament.

Question: Why did you decide to participate?
Trebels: Coach Maes told us last year about tryouts for the team and I thought it was a great opportunity to train over the summer and gain international experience.

Question: Had you ever traveled overseas before?
Trebels: No

Question: What was that experience like?
Trebels: The experience was amazing. We spent the first portion of the trip training in Switzerland getting to know one another on and off the court (there were actually a lot of ACC players there). While in Switzerland, we also scrimmaged the Swiss Senior National Team. That was a thrilling experience because we took them to five sets after only two days of playing with one another.

In Switzerland, we also visited the nearby town of Solothurn. This excursion was fun as we got to roam around the city, buy chocolate and admire the cathedral. After a 13-hour bus trip from Switzerland to Pula, Croatia, we headed to opening ceremonies where we were welcomed with a traditional Croatian dance and were astounded by the atmosphere of the city. There were ruins from ancient times, little shops everywhere, open-air dining, and things of the sort. Over the next several days, we competed in the tournament and then left Pula for Venice.

Venice was absolutely breath taking. Piazza San Marco was overwhelming with the number of photo opportunities, but I feel I got my best pictures from riding down the Grand Canal in a small boat. But after almost two weeks in Europe, it was time to return back to UVa to begin preseason.

Question: What was the most interesting thing you learned from the trip?
Trebels: Coming from a cookie-cutter suburb of Chicago, I feel it was important for me to see how people live in a different part of the world.

Question: How was the competition?
Trebels: After starting slow, the European teams finished strong. I feel that we were the most physical team there, but the European teams had great ball control.

Question: How did your team do?
Trebels: My team went 7-1. We started well, but had a disappointing loss the last day to a team we had beaten just the day before.

Question: How do you think the experience prepared you for this season?
Trebels: The experience prepared me for this season in multiple ways. First, the experience helped me retain the skills I had improved in the spring. Second, the experience exposed me to new ways of thinking about the game. With a new coach, I was given new tips. Third, the experience helped my leadership skills. I learned how to better direct a front row in blocking and make other players around me better. Finally, the experience helped me improve my confidence. For me, confidence is very important because it helps me stay calm and in control on the court.

Question: Would you do it again?
Trebels: I would do it again in a heartbeat! It was a great honor to represent the USA, play over the summer, meet life-long friends and experience a different part of the world.

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