Oct. 30, 2013
Using an off day to its advantage, the University of Notre Dame volleyball team got to experience a bit of Charlottesville history and culture last Saturday as the Irish visited Thomas Jefferson’s home – Monticello – before trekking up Carter Mountain to visit a local orchard that has been around since 1912.
After busing over from Blacksburg, Va., late Friday night after a match against Virginia Tech, the Irish practiced for an hour early Saturday afternoon in preparation for their Sunday match against Virginia. From there it was on to Monticello (or “little mountain” in Italian) to tour the home and grounds of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia.
There the Irish received a tour of the house that Jefferson designed himself and had built in stages from 1769 to 1809. The team was allowed to check out the front parlor, the master bedroom, a guest bedroom, the dining room and a living room. Below the house were also a kitchen and stables among other storage spaces. Outside the home, some players checked out the gardens and the remarkable mountaintop view, while others went to Jefferson’s gravesite.
“I thought Monticello was a great opportunity for us to get to see an amazing landmark that was loaded with history and beauty,” said freshman middle blocker and right side hitter Katie Higgins. “I loved seeing how well the house was preserved and all of its French influenced details. I think my favorite part was the view all around the house. It was perfectly set on the mountain to be able to see for miles. The fall colors made it especially beautiful.”
The Notre Dame Monogram Club made the Irish trip to Monticello possible.
"The Monogram Club team hosting program is tremendously beneficial to our varsity teams, as we set aside funding each year to provide educational, cultural or entertainment opportunities for our student-athletes, while traveling for competition,” said Monogram Club Executive Director Beth Hunter. “As an organization, we understand the demands placed on our student-athletes, and take great pride in providing unique experiences and creating great memories for our student-athletes on the road through these opportunities which otherwise may not be possible within a team’s normal budget."
As the Irish headed back down the “little mountain” the bus made an impromptu trip up another mountain – this time thanks to some clutch driving from the team’s driver who wanted to simply be known as Road Dog. There the team witnessed a beautiful view of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains, while being able to pick apples, try cider and apple related desserts and check out some of the local Charlottesville culture.
“After the treachery of the bus ride up the hill, getting up to the top of the mountain was refreshing,” said senior middle blocker Andie Olsen. “It was so beautiful up there. I've been apple picking before, but never at a mountain orchard. I loved the atmosphere and could not wait to sink my teeth into some of the delicious looking apples.”
All in all, the day’s activities provided a welcome break from the intensity of a Division I volleyball season, while also allowing the team to do activities together off the court.
“Doing fun activities besides volleyball is always great for team bonding,” said Olsen. “I know that I personally love going on these excursions and seeing a little slice of life wherever we are. It really helps us take a step back from volleyball and lets us have fun together.”
For head coach Debbie Brown the double adventure wasn’t random, but just the latest sightseeing opportunity for her Irish volleyball team.
“I feel that one of the charges we have as head coaches at Notre Dame is to educate in every possible way,” said Brown. “The program has visited some incredible cities and been able to take advantage of many historical and cultural experiences. I think it’s an important part of the learning experience that helps shape well-rounded Notre Dame student-athletes. As long as it doesn’t interfere with the preparation for our matches, we greatly enjoy getting to experience the local flavor of an opponent’s town.”
Over the years teams under Brown have experienced flavors of America from coast to coast. Just some of the many wonderful sites student-athletes have experienced are Disney Land (California), Disney World (Florida), Broadway (New York City), the Alamo (San Antonio), haunted houses (Salem/Boston, Mass.), the Liberty Bell (Philadelphia) and the White House, monuments and Smithsonian museums of Washington, D.C.
After a tough weekend on the court, the Irish return home to Purcell Pavilion this weekend to meet Maryland (4 p.m. Friday) and Pittsburgh (2 p.m. Sunday). Sunday’s contest against the Panthers will be available on ESPN3.
-- Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director