That back-to-school essay on "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" could be pretty interesting for Kirstie Hillyer.
The Bayfield volleyball standout went trans-Atlantic, then around the northeast coast of the Adriatic, to participate in the 10th annual European Global Challenge, held July 13-17 in the former Yugoslav republic.
"It was probably the most amazing experience I've ever had," she recalled Wednesday. "All the places we went, people we saw...It was just so amazing."
In addition to multiple stops in the former Eastern-bloc country, the tour also stopped in Rome, where Hillyer and her teammates waved American flags in front of the Coliseum.
Playing in a 17-and-under squad for Bring it Promotions, Hillyer, the daughter of Rich and Laura, helped the team to an outstanding second-place finish in the 14-team "Istria" Division. The team lost the final to the d Mizuno Northern Lights Juniors of Minnesota. The division included teams from multiple U.S. states, as well as Hungary, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro.
"Every team over there was the best in their country, you know," said Hillyer, who has committed to play for Colorado State University in 2015. "Every team was amazing to play against and to watch. My team wasn't the only great team there!"
The teams toured and played in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, and Italy. The gyms weren't air-conditioned, and the players didn't sleep in luxury, either, staying in dorms and hostels.
Joining Hillyer's team in the Istria's top five were the Hungarian National Youth 'A' Team, OK Galeb from the Republic of Montenegro, and the Austin Juniors of Texas.
Fall sports practice started Monday, and Hillyer's voice conveyed an eagerness to get underway for her senior year of volleyball that only such an international opportunity as the challenge could fuel.
"I think I'm definitely ready," she said, her present tense reflecting a possibly-previewed future.