CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Last month Kristine Bunker '14 (Falmouth, Mass.) of the MIT women's volleyball team traveled to Costa Rica for a week of teaching and competition courtesy of USA Athletes International. She received the invitation in January following her selection as an All-America honorable mention by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
Led by University of New Haven's head coach Robin Salters, the team was comprised of AVCA All-America honorable mention student-athletes from NCAA Division II, III, and NAIA institutions across the country. Despite limited practice time, Team USA came together as a group relatively quickly and the chemistry was apparent as it won all four of its matches against local club and college teams.
"It was a great group of girls and we all had very different volleyball, life, and college experiences so I learned a lot from them and I was able to teach them a lot as well," commented Bunker. During its down time, the team visited Baldi Hot Springs, the largest hot springs in the world, and went zip lining in Poas National Park.
A primary focus of the goodwill trip was leading clinics with elementary and middle school gym classes, a youth club team, as well as a youth sand program. During each session, Team USA taught the basics of passing, setting, hitting, and serving. In addition, if time allowed the participants would play a match with the Americans.
Due to the language barrier, instruction occurred through demonstrating the skills in addition to providing individual attention. "We picked up a few Spanish words along the way as cue words to help them understand the movements," said Bunker. "All of the kids were super energetic and excited which meant we could really have fun with them even though we didn't know what each other was saying."
At first, Bunker was unsure of joining the team but she knew she would have an amazing experience. "It was an incredible opportunity to discover what athletic activities are like around the world," reflected Bunker. "I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to compete and teach the sport you love to others who have the same passion for playing it."
A four-year member of the women's volleyball team, Bunker placed fourth in the MIT record book in career blocks (350), fifth in hitting percentage (.320), and tied for sixth in career blocks per set (0.82). This past season, she paced the NEWMAC in hitting percentage (.374) while ranking 15th in the country in the same category while also securing a spot on the NEWMAC all-conference first team. A Capital One Academic All-America second team selection, Bunker graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in June.
Click here to view a photo gallery of Bunker and Team USA in action. All photos are courtesy of the AVCA.