Follow the Volleyball Bears in Nicaragua



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The Missouri State volleyball team travels to Nicaragua May 17-26, combining exhibition matches, community service and tourism activities into a memorable team-building experience into the 2013 season.

Check this article on a regular basis for updates, photos, and more about the Bears' excursion.

Match Results from Trip
May 18 vs. Nicaragua National Team in Managua - W, 25-14, 25-17, 18-25, 22-25, 15-13
May 18 vs. Honduras National Team in Managua- W, 25-19, 25-19, 25-18
May 18 vs. Nicaragua in Managua - W, 25-16, 25-19, 25-17
May 19 vs. Honduras in Managua - W, 25-16, 25-14, 25-19
May 19 vs. Nicaragua in Managua - W, 22-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-23
May 21 vs. Nicaragua in San Juan del Sur - W, 25-18, 25-9, 25-19
May 24 vs. Nicaragua in Masaya - W, 25-21, 25-15, 25-18
May 25 vs. Nicaragua in Managua - W, 25-20, 25-19, 25-16

Update 7 - 9:45 p.m., Saturday, May 25
The final recap of the Bears’ trip wouldn’t be complete without a huge thank you to Brooke Rundle, who spent the entire week with the team and planned all the activities each day. Brooke is an American living in San Juan del Sur who runs the website San Juan Live and does non-profit work in the area such as the Casa Llanta Fund.

Missouri State’s final day began in Granada and ended in Managua with much going on in between the two cities. The Bears spent the first half of their day at Laguna de Apoyo, a lake situated in the crater of a volcano. After some R&R at the lake, it was off to Managua for the team’s eighth and final match of the trip.

The Bears again played the Nicaragua National Team, this time at the American Nicaraguan School, a private school in the capital where students are taught in English with heavy emphasis on college preparation. Missouri State came away with a 25-20, 25-19, 25-16 victory to finish the trip 8-0. The Bears gave their home white jerseys to the Nicaraguans prior to the match and played in tank tops the said Nicaragua on them.

Afterwards, it was off to a restaurant called RostiPollos where the two clubs ate dinner together. MSU arrived back at its hotel around 9 p.m. and heads back to the U.S. first thing Sunday morning.

Photos 66-75 cover the final day of the trip.

Update 6 - 9:15 p.m., Friday, May 24
The Bears woke up in San Juan del Sur for the last time Friday, loaded their luggage on the top of two vans, and piled in for a trip to Granada that included a brief downpour to give everyone’s bags a good soaking.

Granada was founded in 1524 as the first European city in mainland America and rests on the northwest corner of Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America.

Once in Granada, the team hopped into three boats for a tour of the isletas, a grouping of several dozen tiny islands formed by volcanic activity. Many of the islands are privately owned with houses on them, while others are only inhabited by monkeys, which eagerly approached the boats hoping for food.

After lunch and a couple hours of free time, the team headed to Masaya for its seventh match of the trip. The Bears took a 25-21, 25-15, 25-18 decision from the Nicaraguan team on this occasion, the same team with a few roster changes as Missouri State faced earlier in the week.

The Bears racked up 10 aces in the sweep and Kaitlin Jaeger led the way with eight kills and four blocks. Olivia Brand had six kills and Christine McCartney and Andrea Beaty added five apiece. Most players appeared in just two sets and spent the other serving as a line judge.

Photos 56-65 cover today’s action in the gallery, while video highlights of the match in Masaya can be found here.

Update 5 - 8:45 p.m., Thursday, May 23

Thursday was all about fun and excitement for the Bears, beginning with a morning zipline tour that included 16 lines with the longest measuring nearly a quarter mile. The afternoon was spent at Playa Hermosa, a remote beach south of San Juan del Sur. There, the Bears swam, surfed and rode horses until returning to town for dinner. We'll let photos 41-55 in the gallery tell the story.

Update 4 - 8:15 p.m., Wednesday, May 22
The Bears spent much of their daytime hours on Monday through Wednesday doing a variety of service projects around town. Ashley Mason, Hannah Steinbeck and Olivia Brand were kind enough to recap their experiences at various places below. As always, check the photo gallery for updates on each activity.

Ashley Mason on visiting Barrio Planta
Barrio Planta is a supplementary school for kids to come and learn English when they are not in regular school. Kids in Nicaragua either go to school from 8-12 or 1-5 (roughly) based on what age and grade they are. So in their off hours of the day kids are given the opportunity to come to class and learn English.

Over the course of the past few days we have gotten the chance to visit barrio planta and interact with the kids. This has been my favorite service project so far. It is amazing to see these kids invest in their education by spending time in school during their off hours to learn another language.

I had the opportunity to sit in on two classes: English 2 and English 4. In English 2 I sat with Fernandez. We tried to communicate but ended up using our teacher to talk mostly. Clearly my high school Spanish did not prepare me for this! :) I also helped Maycal in English 4. He started out shy but warmed up quickly and we talked quite a bit about his best friend and mine!  I helped both boys study for the EOC exams (haha you can tell I'm an education major) on Wednesday and then we all went and played a review game with the volleyball. Whoever messed up had to answer a question in preparation for the test.

I am absolutely floored by the amount of dedication these students have for their making their lives better and seeking educational opportunities. One of the teachers even mentioned many kids sign themselves up for these classes and there have been times parents didn't even know where the kids were going every day!

Equally as touching is the selfless teachers who diligently work with these kids every day. I have never met such grateful, kind and genuinely thankful children in my life. The experiences we have had giving back so far are absolutely amazing there are no adequate words. I feel so blessed and privileged to be working here with them! Thank you to everyone who supports Missouri State Volleyball and has made this trip possible for us.

Hannah Steinbeck on Los Pipitos
Los Pipitos was really amazing. I was worried going into it, because not only did we have a language barrier between us but a learning disability as well. The kids there did not share that fear and were actually less shy than any children I’ve worked with so far on the trip.

Knowing these kids could put a smile on their faces every day even with all the obstacles they have to conquer puts things into perspective. The entire trip could be spent with those kids and it would be worth it.

The child I worked with, Adonis, was very sweet . After working with spelling, math, and the days of the week, he started a dance party and the entire group joined in. Some of the kids put our best dancers from the States to shame.

After that break it was back to work with some of our players finger-painting with the kids to work on their motor control. Some of the kids even worked on English.

Los Pipitos was truly a unique experience I will never forget and wish I could share with many more.

Olivia Brand on the Mobile Library
The Biblioteca Publica Movil, or the Mobile Library, in San Juan del Sur is the first lending library in Nicaragua. Our guide Heather told us that the other libraries in Nicaragua are just storage places for old books that are falling apart. This mobile library was founded in 2001 to finally make books available to the community. I was amazed that something we take so much for granted like a public library could be such a gift and true blessing to these children and families. Not only does this library lend books, but they also have computers and set up community events that promote education and literacy in the community.

The most amazing part of this library, however, is the fact that they send out books to the rural communities which lets them touch so many more childrens’ lives. Here are a couple quick facts about the huge impact this one library is having on the community: there are currently 12,500 books in the library some in Spanish and some in English, it has provided 5,000 books to 31 communities, and has given over 6,800 library cards to children, teachers, and other members of the community. Also, Heather told us that many of the children take it upon themselves to go to the library to read and check out books.

The morning I worked with the mobile library, the school wasn’t going to allow us to come because sometimes the teachers do not want to take time out of their lessons to let the children borrow books. We did get to bring a bunch of books and arts and crafts that have been donated, and we could see right away that these donations would be put to good use!

After we unpacked the donations and had a quick tour of the library, we found out we would be going to a local school and helping them make Mother’s Day cards. This is another example of how the library really is reaching out in the community. We made some example cards and then walked over to the school, where we were going to work with elementary school students. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what we found was a lot of students in overfilled classrooms who were so happy to see us and generally didn’t speak any English.

The language barrier was difficult at first as we were trying to explain how to fold and cut the cards, but they caught on very quickly and showed right away how much more creative they were than I was with their limited supplies. Whenever the language barrier was a problem, it was easiest to just look at each other and laugh and try to figure out a different way to communicate. After we finished making the cards they all thanked us and we took a big group picture. I think it is my favorite picture from the trip so far!

Although I didn’t get to actually go out on the book truck with the mobile library, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to really see the immediate impact of our donations, and really understand how fortunate our school systems are with a seemingly unending supply of glue, colored pencils, markers, and scissors. After seeing a class of 35 share two boxes of markers with a smile on their face, I have learned a lot about selflessness and how these children are so happy with what to us seems like so little. Thank you to everyone who helped make this trip possible, and to all who donated items to make moments like these such a lesson for everyone here.  

Update 3 - 10 p.m., Tuesday, May 21
Tuesday night's match against the Nicaraguan National Team was likely the most unique match any player on the MSU roster has ever participated in.

The venue was outdoors on a concrete basketball/volleyball court with seating on two sides and standing room on another. Pictures are available in the photo gallery. An estimated 200 fans were in attendance, many from San Juan del Sur, and others who were tourists from the United States. One couple visiting from Chicago stopped by because their daughter played college volleyball.

Music played over the loudspeakers throughout the contest, and an emcee described the action live while announcing raffle winners. There was even a local media member in attendance, Paolo Ferraro of the Nicaragua Report Company (, who filmed much of the match and interviewed Coach Stokes afterward. Several of the Bears were also approached for autographs following the match.

Prior to the match, Missouri State's Olivia Brand and Christine McCartney sang the national anthem before the Nicaraguan anthem was played.

On the court, the Bears came away with a 25-18, 25-9, 25-19 victory to improve to 6-0 on the trip. Brand and Kaitlin Jaeger shared high honors with six kills each, while Jaeger added four blocks and Andrea Beaty tallied three as the Bears scored many of their points on aces and Nicaragua errors.

Update 2 - 5:45 a.m. (yes, a.m.), Tuesday, May 21
Good morning, Bears fans. It seems the best time to provides updates is first thing in the morning, especially since it gets light between 4:30 and 5 in the morning and all the local birds wake up at the same time. The players are in the midst of three days rotatiing through various service projects, and will have reaction here by the end of Wednesday.

There is also a match scheduled for tonight in an outdoor venue that is said to be a great atmosphere with a large crowd expected to be on hand.

In the meantime, here are some videos from Sunday, including senior Carly Thomas rattling off two straight service aces against Honduras and Coach Stokes recapping the team's first five matches.

Update 1 - 9:35 p.m. Sunday, May 19
Hello Bears volleyball fans. It's late on a Sunday night in San Juan Del Sur. While the Bears had a long travel day to the capital, Managua, on Friday the 17th, the author of this blog and several others joined the travel party on Saturday the 18th, and, after a long day away from the internet, we are now able to provide our first update of the trip. Additionally, a photo gallery will be linked at the top of this article, and videos will be available as time and internet connections permit.

Missouri State played five matches over a 27-hour span during its first two days in Managua, winning all five.

Match 1 vs. Nicaragua National Team - 25-14, 25-17, 18-25, 22-25, 15-13 (17 kills, .727 hitting % for Kaitlin Jaeger)
Match 2 vs. Honduras National Team - 25-19, 25-19, 25-18
Match 3 vs. Nicaragua National Team - 25-16, 25-19, 25-17
Match 4 vs. Honduras National Team - 25-16, 25-14, 25-19
Match 5 vs. Nicaragua National Team - 22-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-23

After Sunday's second match, the team loaded up in three vans along with another full of luggage to head for San Juan Del Sur. A stop in Masaya for lunch and some shopping provided another exciting cultural experience for the players, with several working on their Spanish in search of a good deal. The team then arrived in San Juan Del Sur, its stop for the next five nights, in time for some sight-seeing before sunset (which happens around 6 p.m.), dinner and sorting the many bags of donations brought for the locals.

That adventure begins Monday with a variety of service projects... 





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