Typically, the weeks leading up to the TCU volleyball team’s first game of the season involve knocking off the rust.This year, the players hit two-a-days already united and physically prepared after spending 12 days playing across Italy this summer. They open their season Friday night at defending NCAA champion and No. 1-ranked Penn State.“I think when we came into two-a-days we weren’t getting out the kinks,” sophomore Ashley Smith said. Every four years teams can take an overseas trip to play international competition. As part of the trip, the teams can spend two weeks practicing. A team enters the NCAA season with an extra three weeks of preparation.In Italy, the Frogs played six matches against club and youth national teams. Along the way, Frogs players went sightseeing and learned firsthand about the history and culture.“My favorite part was Rome,” senior Mattie Burleson said. “I’m a history minor, so I’m a big history buff. Rome was super fun. I learned a lot of stuff. Being on the original cobblestone was really cool.”Players woke up at 7:30 a.m. every day, sometimes still adjusting to the time change, and prepared for several matches. At the end of the trip, TCU faced its toughest challenge in Italy’s top-ranked under 18 national team. Coach Prentice Lewis, in her 13th season at the Frogs’ helm, said she was happy with her team’s performance and excited about the maturity that was developed. “I think this group has made plenty of great, great decisions with what they want to do with this season, but there is execution that has to happen,” Lewis said.The last time TCU traveled abroad, in 2009, the Horned Frogs reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Lewis said the trip doesn’t guarantee a great finish to the season, but it starts the season on the right foot.“I’ve got to say out of all of my seasons I’ve been here, I feel like our chemistry is the greatest this year,” Burleson said. “I really feel confident in my team and what we are wanting to do as a TCU volleyball program.”TCU volleyball key dates Friday at Penn State, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 5 vs. Grambling St., 12:30 p.m. and vs. Miami, 8 p.m. (home openers, TCU Nike Invitational) Sept. 12 at Notre Dame, 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at Texas Tech, 6 p.m. (First Big 12 game) Oct. 22 at Texas, 7 p.m. Nov. 26 vs. Texas, 6:30 p.m.