Cove gets an exchange of talent

October 02, 2003 11:00 pm
INFLUX OF       TALENT: Christin Semmler of Potsdam, Germany, plays for the Cove volleyball team, while Arttu Monkkonen of Espoo, Finland, took up the unlikely sport of football. (Photos by Pierre LaBossire ).
INFLUX OF TALENT: Christin Semmler of Potsdam, Germany, plays for the Cove volleyball team, while Arttu Monkkonen of Espoo, Finland, took up the unlikely sport of football. (Photos by Pierre LaBossire ).

By Pierre LaBossire

Observer Staff Writer

COVE — The biggest thing Christin Semmler and Arttu Monkkonen had to get used to was how everyone in Cove knows everyone else.

Semmler and Monkkonen are learning a lot about American small towns this year. Semmler is an exchange student from Potsdam, a big city on the outskirts of Berlin, while Monkkonen hails from Espoo, a big city just outside of Helsinki, Finland.

Semmler played a lot of club volleyball in Germany, so she joined the Cove volleyball team. With her wicked jump serve and strong play at the net, she has already become the talk of opposing coaches and players throughout the Old Oregon League.

Monkkonen chose to try something really different. His favorite sport is snowboarding, but he decided to try out football, a sport that's virtually unknown in his native country.

"It's fun. It's so much different" from any sport in Finland, he said.

Both students are enjoying playing for Cove and their Cove experience in general.

"I like it here. I love it," said Semmler.

Though there is a little bit of American football in Germany with an NFL Europe franchise in Frankfurt, Semmler said she had never seen a football game before. She said the rules are confusing and the game didn't make much sense to her at first.

However, Semmler, who is staying with Sharon and Joe Pretti, does know volleyball. She plays on an elite club team in Potsdam, and many of her teammates are adult women in their 20s.

Semmler, who comes to practice wearing a t-shirt that says "I have energy" in German, said the biggest difference between playing volleyball for Cove and playing for her club team is that her coach in Germany was much harder on the players than her coach in Cove, Darcy Johnson.

"I love my coach. She is so nice," Semmler said.

Monkkonen is staying with Scott and Pat VanNice.

Finland is a hockey-mad country (It is the nation that brought Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Jari Kurri to North America, among many other NHL players.), but Monkkonen didn't play a lot of hockey at home.

However, he said many of his friends play hockey. When asked which sport he thinks is more physical, he said football.

Monkkonen plays guard for the resurgent Cove Leopards. He said he is having a great time learning a new sport, and that Cove's undefeated record makes it that much better.

"It's more fun playing for a good team than a bad team," he said.

Monkkonen has gotten a chance to make a couple of tackles so far this season. He especially liked that.

Both Semmler and Monkkonen were in for a bit of culture shock because Cove is so small compared to the big cities they are from.

"Everyone here is so nice. I was very surprised that when you walk down the street, they say ‘hello, how are you.' That's so different," said Semmler.

"You make lots of friends. Everybody knows everyone," Monkkonen said.

The European pair were also struck by how wide-open eastern Oregon was, especially when they made their first road trips to isolated towns such as Adrian and Crane.

"Oh my gosh, no one lives next to each other. Everyone here has so much space," said Semmler.

Monkkonen, who made sure to pack his snowboard, plans to spend this winter checking out ski areas around Oregon. Semmler, meanwhile, doesn't play basketball, but said some of her volleyball teammates are trying to talk her into taking up the sport.

"They want me to play. I'm not sure, though," she said.