EAST BEND - Forbush junior Jessica Funk recently returned to Yadkin County after a trip of a lifetime to Europe.
Funk, a varsity letter-winner on the Lady Falcons’ volleyball, basketball and soccer teams, suited up for AAU Volleyball’s Team Nfinity in the 2013 Global Challenge in Pula, Croatia in July, while also touring neighboring countries overseas.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to go,” she explained. “Touring Rome was my favorite. The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking.”
Funk was one of three players selected from the state, joining Bishop McGuinness’ Jessica Brandewie and Southwest Guilford’s Taylor Rhodes on the team. The 10-girl squad also included girls from Virginia, Alabama, Arizona and New York.
Coaching the club was two-time Olympian and Volleyball National Hall of Famer Debbie Green, serving as a mentor for both the players and coaches. Assistant coaches included Forbush head volleyball coach and Jessica’s mother, Angie Funk, and Bishop McGuinness skipper Missi Brandewie.
After arriving in Rome July 10, the Funks and Team Nfinity toured the capital city of Italy before preparing for the Global Challenge.
The squad then traveled to Bologna, Italy for scrimmage matches to continue to work on the teams’ chemistry. The girls never played together until arriving in Italy, according to Angie.
After spending two days in Bologna, Team Nfinity headed to Croatia for the four-day tournament, competing against the Czech, Hungarian and Slovenian Junior National Teams, as well as high level junior teams from Croatia, Montenegro and Puerto Rico in the Brujuni (Youth) U16 Division.
The squad squared off with the Hungarian Youth National Team in the opening-round match. After falling 25-20 in the first set, the Americans scored a 25-23 victory in the second stanza. Hungary put the match away in the third, winning 25-18.
Nfinity was over-matched in the second contest, falling in straight sets to the Czech Republic 25-22, 25-14, 25-16.
The team picked up their lone win of the tournament on the third day, breezing past the Texas U14 squad in straight sets, 25-10, 25-11, 25-18 to earn the No. 8 seed heading into the final round.
Nfinity ran into the Czechs again in its last match of the tourney, falling in straight sets. But the final match was closer with the Czech Republic winning 25-21, 25-23, 25-16.
Team Nfinity finished eighth in the tournament - the third-highest finish by an American team. Host Croatia’s National Team captured gold over California, while the Czechs rounded out the top three.
“The European teams were really good,” Jessica explained. “The competition was very, very hard.”
Following the Global Challenge, the team headed to Venice, Italy, where Jessica celebrated her 16th birthday - the highlight of her trip.
With the experience of playing against some of the best competition from around the globe under her belt, the rising junior will look to lead the Lady Falcons on the volleyball court this upcoming season.
Forbush tips off the 2013 season Aug. 27 against former Mountain Valley Conference foe Alleghany in Sparta.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.