June 25, 2006
USF volleyball Legend Brittanie Budinger has returned to the U.S. after two years of professional play in Scandinavia and Europe. Honored as one of the 75 greatest athletes in USF history, Budinger earned 2002 and 2003 All-West Coast Conference First Team selection while playing for the Green and Gold. The most dominant player in USF history and key to USF's first ever post-season NCAA tournament play, Budinger's number was retired in September 2004.
Prior to her senior year, Budinger did a summer tour in Italy playing for the Volleyhut.com team. Intrigued by the experience, she decided to head abroad again following her June 2004 graduation. Playing in tours in France, Holland and Germany, Budinger's incredible talent caught the eye of several coaches and she was recruited by the Vanajan team in Hameenlinnan, Finland.
According to Budinger, "It was difficult in the beginning as the coach did not speak English, but my teammates did and they were very supportive. In fact, I made some very close friends and still stay in contact with them.
"Finland was very exciting as our team was terrific. We won the Finnish Championship and went on to participate in the Euro Cup playing in Romania and Scotland. While my team was eventually eliminated in the Euro competition, I was proud to bring home a gold medal from Finland."
The following year, Budinger headed for Spain where she played forMaspalomas Costa Carnaria, a top team in the Spanish Volleyball League (Superliga de Voleibol), the premier league in Europe. Budinger became quickly immersed in the Spanish language and culture as neither her teammates nor coach spoke English. Budinger noted, "While our team was not among the top nationally, it was a terrific opportunity to play against the best teams in the world. Plus I learned Spanish!"
Budinger said she would highly recommend that college players participate in international tours. "Playing in Europe is very different than the U.S. American volleyball is very precise and employs a faster offense so my quick reflexes always gave me a competitive advantage. In Europe, I had to change my game. There, volleyball is much more of a power game with high ball sets, high passes and tougher serves. The players, especially the blockers are also bigger than their American counterparts. Initially, it was quite a challenge, but within a few months I was able to adjust."
While excited to be home, Budinger misses her international coterie of new friends. She is now pursuing professional business opportunities and hopes to leverage her experience in college and professional sports for a career in sports management and marketing in the Bay Area.