#STINGDAILY: Pin Dreams

Jan. 3, 2013

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

When you love something as much as Bailey Hunter loves volleyball, you’ll travel the ends of the Earth to continue doing it.

The ends of the Earth for Hunter, who came back for a fifth year with the Jackets then graduated on December 15th as part of Georgia Tech’s Fall Commencement, will be Eastern Europe, specifically, Slovakia. She left on Wednesday and will begin training and playing Doprastav Bratislava (SVK).

She got the offer shortly after graduation.

“About two weeks ago, the same professional volleyball placement agency that Mo [Mead] is using, Bring It Sports Promotions, contacted me,” Hunter recalled. “I got a couple of other offers but I was pretty set on going to Europe. There is a team that had an opening for an outside hitter. I’m really excited and looking forward to learning about the area and the team and just getting the opportunity to continue playing.”

After weighing her options and talking things over with her parents, she decided to commit, only a couple of days before actually having to pack, her bags and go.

Helping sway her decision was the fact that she had been in that same area over the summer during Georgia Tech Volleyball’s summer tour of Europe.

“It was really awesome when we went there this summer because we got to work with this organization and I got to meet all the recruiters and agents that would be placing you,” she said. “They got to watch you play and we also got to play a lot of European teams, so it was nice because I got my face out there and get my personality kind of noticed a little bit, and of course, my skill level. I enjoyed and developed a connection with the coaches there and the agency, which was really helpful, and then seeing the countryside and experiencing the culture was just unreal.”

What she knows about the terrain may be all that she knows right off, as she’ll be the only American on her team, but there is exposure to American-born players, as there are a lot of leagues in Europe where players can be placed and there are touring teams sponsored by “Bring It Representation,” that make frequent trips. The next one will be in Maribor, Slovenia, a little more than an hour from Hunter’s home base, from Jan. 9 through 13 as part of its 11-day tour of Europe.

“I know a lot of college girls, players that graduated in May or have previously graduated in years past but want to play go up there and they get to try out,” she said. “One of my best friends (former UGA setter Kathleen Gates) will actually be there so I’ll have a chance to talk with her. So within the first couple of weeks I’ll have someone that I can relate to.”

A lot of the potential hassles, such as finding housing and transportation, have been taken care of by the team, as she’ll likely share an apartment with a teammate and if she wants a car, would probably share one as well. But she said she’s leaning toward riding the bus or train to get a feel for the area.

The league, which starts in August and runs through May, is at its midway point, and the team is scheduled to play two games a week with trips scheduled to Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. The playing part is something she does know and can’t wait to start.

About the only thing that could make Hunter’s stay in Europe perfect is having Mead as a teammate again. While it’s possible, Hunter admits the possibility is remote.

“There are just so many teams within that country that the odds that we’ll be placed on the same team are so slim because we get placed as far as need goes within a team, like my team needs an outside hitter,” she said. “It would be awesome if we got placed on the same team because she’s definitely a comfort and it would be really nice to have her go there but I don’t think that will happen, unfortunately.”

Conversely, there’s the chance they’ll wind up playing against each other.

“That would be pretty crazy,” Hunter said, with a laugh. “Every single time that we played six-on-six in practice and it wasn’t the starting lineup, the first thing [Tech Head Coach] Tonya [Johnson] did was split Mo and I up. So I’m pretty used to playing against her but it’s never been for a serious purpose. It would be really different to put a little more competition in it and it would be worth more so that would be really fun.”

It sounds like it’s going to be really fun regardless of who she plays.

You can follow Bailey’s progress and Doprastav BRATISLAVA (SVK) on the team’s official web site, http://mevza-mobil.volleynet.at/Kader/9807-11016.

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