Jan. 6, 2014
HOUSTON – Playing overseas is a great accomplishment for volleyball players. This year, the University of Houston Volleyball team has a former and current player leading teams to bigger and greater accolades in Europe.
Sophomore outside hitter Kadi Kullerkann returned to her native country, Estonia, and played as a middle blocker during a tournament over the winter break.
“I started national team camp as soon as I got home in December. At the end of the camp we had three friendly matches against Belarus where coach decided who would travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, with the national team to compete in the third round of world championships,” Kullerkann said.
Last spring, the team won the first round and moved straight into the third round, but Kullerkann wasn’t a part of the team during that time because of her knee injury. This year the sophomore earned a spot on the team in the middle along with her sister Liis who plays for Ohio University.
“I now have a spot on the team as a middle blocker after playing it in three practices and the friendly matches with Belarus,” she said. “I was a little shocked and confused since I never really played middle before."
The tournament took place in Baku, Azerbaijan. Kullerkann and her teammates faced tough competitors in Azerbaijan, Serbia, and Israel.
“For Estonian National Team it was already a big thing to make it to the third round and we are just taking it all in and trying to do our best here,” Kullerkann said prior to tournament play.
Former player Lucy Charuk started her professional career in volleyball immediately after her senior season with Houston. She was a part of the Croatian team ZOK Split 1700 and returned for the Fall 2012 semester to finish her degree and graduate. Charuk returned to Croatia for her second professional season with the team.
Continuing her path to pursue a dream, the British Columbia native spent her summer training with the Canadian national team in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Charuk finished training and headed back to Europe for her third season at the professional level but in a different country.
Charuk now plays for the club team Calcit Volleyball in Kamnik, Slovenia.
“Kamnik is a small town, so the volleyball club is a huge part of the community. They have teams for all ages with the main focus on our 1st League team that I play for,” Charuk said.
Making the move to Slovenia has been a step up for the Cougar great. She says the club team plays in three different leagues - the Slovenian 1st League, MEVZA, the Middle European League, and the CEV Challenge Cup.
“This team has many differences than playing in Croatia. The team plays at a higher level and we are in a better league,” Charuk said. “We play twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays and get to travel a lot more. In Croatia, we only stayed within the country but with Calcit Volleyball we have traveled to Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Switzerland, and Croatia.”
During the Christmas holiday, Charuk led the Calcit Volleyball team to a win the Slovenian Cup, a tournament for the best clubs in the Slovenian 1st League.
“It was a big deal for Calcit and the town of Kamnik, since the team we played had been the Slovenian champions for many years.”
The championship match was held Dec. 27 in front of what Charuk recalls as a huge crowd. It was also televised on Slovenian television. The team won in four sets and Charuk was named top middle blocker of the cup.