PULA, Croatia — Madelyn Robinson is back for a second year.
“It’s super fun,” the Utah senior outside hitter said. “It’s really fun, you get to travel, we have good coaches and you meet people.”
True to all of the above at the 17th Global Challenge, a girls/women’s volleyball tournament conducted in this city on the Adriatic Sea. Competition begins Tuesday and runs through Friday as titles will be awarded in a U23 division that includes four teams from America, and a U18 division, that has 17 teams, five from the USA.
This year, the event, put on by Bring It Promotions, can be seen for the first time on Baller.tv: https://www.ballertv.com/events/global-challenge.
Robinson, for one, is playing on the BIP U23 team coached by Mick Haley. He’s back for the third time and hoping for a title this year after losing in the 2021 final to an Israeli national team coached by USA great Logan Tom. Robinson played for Haley last year, too, and Tom couldn’t make it because she’s with an Israeli youth team at another tournament.
“I think it’s a really exciting thing for the kids,” said Haley, the former Texas and USC coach who was the 2000 USA Olympic coach. “It’s a players’ tournament because you don’t just focus on the volleyball. You go to the beach. You go see the things in town. There are all kinds of things that players do in conjunction with this. And yet, everybody tries to win.
“And you just make friends from all over the world. I love it.”
Bring It’s Tim Kelly, the former UCLA player, and partner Cory Solomon put on not only this tournament but also take NCAA volleyball teams on their international tours, often to this part of the world.
“We’re really excited because we have the biggest numbers we’ve ever had,” Kelly said. “We are up to like 440 people.”
The Global Challenge fills the Hotel Pula in its entirety, but this year for the first time they had to add properties.
“The participation from the foreign teams, we were worried, because it’s been a weird year for us and a lot of the foreign teams aren’t together, so it’s great that so many teams came from as far away as they did,” Kelly said. “A team drove from Sarajevo, teams drove from Latvia and Lithuania, three different Swedish teams are flying down, it’s just been fabulous to see our friends and people coming right back like the (pandemic) is over.”
In the U18 division, there are also teams from Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Hungary, and, from the USA, WorldWise Volley from Southern California and a team from Hawai’i.
There are four USA teams in the U23, including Haley’s squad, that has Robinson and other NCAA college players, including Pepperdine’s Emma Ammerman, UT Arlington’s Brianna Ford, and Grand Canyon’s Annabelle Kubinski. The tournament includes current and former NCAA players from Colgate, Quinnipiac, American, San Diego State, LSU, Stony Brook, Idaho State, Virginia and NIU.
Katie Charles, who coaches 12s and is the college recruiting coordinator for the Sunshine club in Southern California, is back for the ninth time.
“It’s kind of like a family. Once you come once, and we’re only together 12 days a year, but it’s all hugs and happiness and a pleasure to see everybody,” said Charles, who played and won a Division III NCAA title at Juniata and has been a college assistant at Endicott, Dartmouth, and Georgia and head coach at Kenyon.
“Everybody is here for the right reasons. The kids are here for a great experience, they’re gonna play some great volleyball, they’re gonna learn a bunch, they’re gonna be exposed to the high-level International and they’re going to learn and grow without the pressure of club or high school or always worrying about tryouts.”
For the older group, for many of them, it is a tryout of sorts. This is an opportunity to be seen by representatives of professional teams in Europe and from this tournament many a player has gotten a contract.
The festivities begin Tuesday night local (1 p.m. Eastern) with opening ceremonies. You can watch free on the tournament’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bringitusaglobalchallenge/