Former Woodland star volleyball player Adriana Ambari spent this past summer on a whirlwind tour of Europe, playing for an American team as part of the Goodwill Ambassadors Tour in preparation for her sophomore year at Rhode Island College.
The former All-Naugatuck Valley League right side hitter certainly made her mark as a freshman under head coach Elysce Tackmann, helping the Anchorwomen to a 14-16 record while recording 157 kills, 94 service points and 28 blocks.
After the season, Ambari filled out an application for the Goodwill Ambassadors Tour and was selected to be one of 40 players from around the country who formed four teams to tour Europe.
“It was an amazing experience,” Ambari said. “The competition was phenomenal. We played a three-day tournament in Paris and faced the Tunisia Olympic team. Playing against players with that kind of skill level certainly helped me to improve my game. There is a big difference playing in high school to playing in college. The game is faster, the players are that much better and the competition is greater. But playing against those teams in Europe was something I’ve never experienced.”
The journey to Europe began in New York with the first stop on the tour being London, where they were immediately whisked off to practice. The following day they continued to run through drills to prepare for the upcoming tournaments.
While in London they did manage to get in some sightseeing, visiting Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament and Big Ben. The team scrimmaged a team from London before leaving for Paris, to which it traveled 28 minutes under the English Channel on the Eurotunnel at 100 mph.
“There were about 30 teams in the tournament,” Ambari of her French experience. “They were all-star teams from all over France, including the Tunisia Olympic team. I met so many people from all over and a trip like this was just so amazing.”
After the tournament in France they left for Barcelona, Spain. The team got to play a little beach volleyball in preparation for the tournament and explored Las Ramblas. The next day the team arrived at the gym in Val Hebron, site of the 1992 Olympics.
“To be playing on that same court was just a dream come true,” Ambari said. “It was very interesting taking in all that was around me. I would definitely love to go back and play in Europe again but next summer I want to concentrate on my grades to get ready for the season.”
Ambari got to take home a medal as her team finished in second place during the tournament. The experience was a springboard into her second season at Rhode Island College, where she played for her second head coach in two years, Kristen Johnson. The Anchorwomen were in a rebuilding year armed with just one senior and one junior to lead the way.
Ambari posted 69 kills, 77 service points and 23 blocks, but the Anchorwomen struggled through a tough 3-26 campaign. As she prepares for her junior season, Ambari will be under the direction of her third head coach in three years with Leo Bush taking over the reins next season.
“I feel my play improved after the experience in Europe,” Ambari said. “But we were in a rebuilding year and it was a hard season. I’m always looking to improve myself not only as a volleyball player but as a person as well. I know there was a lot more recruiting done so we should get better next season.”
Even though she’s playing at the next level, Ambari was proud of her alma mater’s Class M state title last month.
“I was so excited for the Woodland girls when I found out they won the state championship,” Ambari said. “I’m especially happy for coach (Jim) Amato.”