Saturday, June 17, 2006

Day 20-21: Travel home!

The WNT packed up early and said good-bye to their gracious hosts in Eindhoven before boarding a train for Amsterdam. Arriving at the Amsterdam airport, the WNT bid farewell to Europe and boarded a train for Washington, DC, where they would touch American soil again after an amazing and exhausting three weeks!!!

Day 19: USA vs. Holland VHC and World Cup!

The morning began with a friendly match against Holland VHC, in their home gym. It had been a close match in the tournament, but this time there would be 30 minute halves and an actual half-time. The WNT was hoping that this match would produce a final win on the tour.

The game began well for the WNT, who were up most of the first half, and finished the second half only one point behind. THe second half proved a little more difficult for the WNT, who had the opportunity to take a win in the last ten minutes when they were up 6 players to 3 on the Dutch side (lots of 2 minutes!). Sadly this advantage slipped away from the WNT, who got beat on fast break a few times to finish the game 25-31.

After showering, the WNT ate some sandwhiches that had been prepared for them by their local hosts and headed into town to enjoy the afternoon sun. Once the team arrived in town, they were given free reign to enjoy watching the Holland vs. Bosnia World Cup game that was being shown on big screen tvs that littered the streets.

Eindhoven was completely orange with people dressed to support their team. The streets were packed and people sitting in outdoor bars and cafe's spilled over into the streets, creating quite a vision of orange! The town exploded when Holland won the game 1-0.

When the match ended, the WNT met for dinner at a nice steakhouse in the city. "Chief" (Sarah Gascon's dad) and Gail (Lauren's mom) treated the team do a delicious dinner, including a celebration of Amanda, T, and Maren's birthdays which had passed during the trip.

After a lovely day, everyone was released on their on recognizance to enjoy the evening as they pleased. Some went out on the town, others enjoyed a movie, and some took the time to pack and relax back at the lodge.

An excellent day of enjoying Eindhoven and relaxing with teammates!!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Day 18: Tournament in Eindhoven

This morning began with kind of a relaxed start, a nice breakfast, and travel to the gym in town. We arrived early to watch a coaching workshop given by the coach of a local men's team. We watched as the players demonstrated different drills for both the court players and the goalies.

After the clinic finished, the WNT suited up to begin the tournament. They played four games over the course of the day, winning against the Belgian national champions (25-20), but losing by a few points to the three elite division teams from Holland.

It was an exhausting day, but there was a lot of great competition.

Day 17: Travel to Holland

The day began early, as we packed our things into the vans, cleaned out the dorms, and headed to the Stralsund train station to make our way to Holland.

We said farewell to Bernd and our gracious hosts, who will hopefully make it to the USA sometime soon.

The first leg of the trip took us from Stralsund to Hamburg, then Hamburg to Dusseldorf, then Dusseldorf to Eindhoven.

With today being the first day of the World Cup, it was certainly hectic travelling through Germany!! At the same time, we arrived safely in Eindhoven to meet with our hosts at the station.

From the station, our hosts took our bags while we took a scenic walk through the city to our lodgings. That evening, we settled into the house where we were staying, ate a nice dinner, and went to bed in preparation for tomorrow's 4 games!!

Day 16: Last day in Stralsund!

Last day in Stralsund!! It turned out to be a really great day for the WNT, who had an opportunity to spend their last training session in Germany with the coach of a local Division I team, and a few of his players.

The coach, Holger Schneider, arrived at the gym ready to get to work with the WNT! From the beginning, it was an intense practice, but it was nice having the men's players there to show us how to do the drills correctly. Even with the language barrier, he was very clear about how he wanted things done.

The drills started off with basic warm-ups that included ball-handling, passing, and quick feet movement. Then we moved onto defense, and then broke-up into our position groups to do position-specific shooting exercises. It was fantastic for each of us to work with one of the players in our position, really focusing on some of the specific skills we needed to work on.

After the position-shooting, we all got together to work on fast-breaks, and how to draw the goalie (while the goalies worked on defending fast break shots!). We finished with a game of "35 points"- wherein we started with 35 and every shot we made took us down one point, and every shot we missed took us up two points! The idea was to end practice when the score reached zero. (This was definitely a game we knew we'd be seeing again in our practices once we got back to Cortland). With time limited, we cut the game short and brought it in for the day. Everyone was exhausted, but very excited about what a great practice it had been.

With lunch time growing near, we headed to the hotel next door for food, while the coaches talked tactics at a nearby table.

After we got back home, the coaches gave us the afternoon off to take care of laundry, shopping for handball stuff (shoes, kneepads, and all sorts of exciting stuff that you can't get in the US!), or just relaxing.

Later that afternoon, we meet the Stralsunder HV team at one of the local handball gyms for a joint training/scrimmage session. The WNT split up into two teams, supplemented by members of the Stralsunder HV team, and we played 3 15-minute periods, after which we all gathered outside for a delcious BBQ.

As the sun went down, the WNT enjoyed good food and socializing with the Stralsunder ladies, who described what their training and life was like in Germany. It was a fun day, and a terrific way to end our time in Germany!

Day 15: Day in Neubrandenburg

This morning the WNT had breakfast and packed into vans to make the 1.5 hour trip south to Neubrandenburg. As we had heard the previous day, this city was one that was a trading partner with Stralsund "back in the day" (they were both in the same hansel, as they called it).

The day started off with a training session at one of the gyms on the campus of the Elite Sports School, where later the team would face-off against Neubrandenburg, a 3rd Division team with many young players from the sports school.

After training, showering, and eating lunch, the WNT headed for a tour of the school. It started off with a brief introduction of the school and a question and answer session with the school's Director of Sports, English teacher, and Vice-Principal. Next they took us on a tour of the main building, including classrooms for art and science. The school emphasized that although their students were elite athletes, their education was also very important.

When the tour had been completed, the coaches decided to let the players have some nice relaxation time before the game. So the WNT boarded a boat for a laid-back tour of the Neubrandenburg lake. It was a nice sunny day, and everyone enjoyed having an hour or so to enjoy the fresh air before game preparation began.

As soon as the boat docked, the WNT headed back to the gym to get ready for their game. The stadium had been sold out, so they knew it would be important to get focused.

Sure enough, the stadium filled up with lots of locals, who brought their families, their drums, their trumpets and noisemakers!! It was a really festive atmosphere for what turned out to be a really exciting match.

Things started off well for the WNT, who took the lead in the beginning 5-0. During a time out in the first half, Coach Latulippe impressed on the players that it was time to keep the intensity and take care of the ball. By the end of the first half, the WNT was down one 12-13.

The second half was just as intense, but in the end the WNT couldn't put the ball in consistently, and the defense fell. The game ended with a final score of 25-20.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Day 14: Day off in Stralsund!

Today the WNT had a break fro training and games. The morning started off with a nice breakfast that included french toast made by "T" and Jenny Choi (with help from a few others). At 9:00, the team met with a tour guide in downtown Stralsund for an hour and a half tour of the city.

It was a beautiful day, and everyone enjoyed walking around and learning about the rich history of Stralsund, including many churches and buildings that date back to the 1400's.

After the tour, the WNT went to the local mal, where we were greeted by a team of cheerleaders at the entrance. Members of the team did a little demonstration with a goal that had been set-up on the main floor. Inside, the WNT met with the manager of the mall, and took a tour of the mall.

Everyone was really excited to be given "all access" to the mall cafeteria, which included delicious food and all we could eat!

The afternoon was given off so that people could take care of their laundry/shopping/email.

The team reconvened in the evening, all dressed up in their best clothes to meet with the mayor of Stralsund. Unfortunately, the mayor was sick, but the vice-mayor came and welcomed us to the town hall where everyone enjoyed a nice buffet with lots of local delicacies like fresh fish and soup, as well as other entrees and fruit and dessert.

Come visit Stralsund, it is definitely a fantastic city!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Day 13: WNT plays Stralsund Tournament

The team enjoyed a leisurely morning in. With a three-game tournament in the afternoon, the coaches nixed morning practice and everyone slept in a bit...At 10pm, the team gathered in the common room for a delicious brunch that included fresh rolls, jam, and omlettes courtesy of team captain "T" who showed off her culinary skills for the team.

Not too much later, we headed into town for a lunch at a local restaurant (thanks to our local hosts and food sponsors). From there we left for the gym.

We played the 2nd, 4th, and 6th games of the was a long day, but there was a lot of really good handball.

WNT came in 3rd place with results as follows:

USA vs. Neubrandenburg (15-20)
USA vs. TSV Altenholz D3 (25-13)
USA vs. Stralsunder HV (15-10)

Final Standings:
1st- Neubrandenburg (2-1)
2nd- TSV Altenholz (2-1)
3rd- USA (1-2)
4th- Stralsunder (1-2)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Day 12: USA vs. Stralsunder HV

Breakfast, training session, then lunch in town and off to the stadium in town to play the local team.

Another good crowd in the stadium!

USA had control over most of the game, finishing at the end with a win!

USA 26- Stralsund 24

Day 11: WNT vs. Grimmen

Woke-up, had a nice breakfast in the dorms before heading to the gym down the street for a training session.

Our local host Bernd took us for lunch in downtown Stralsund where we had delicious fresh fish and potatoes. It was fun to go out and have the restaurants sponsor us!

Played a game at 4pm vs. Grimmen, a 4th division team who finished first in their league and will move up to the 3rd division next year. The stadium was packed, with all of the seats packed and even people standing.

Tough game- USA had the lead for most of the last half, but a few penalty shots at the end tied the game up 30-30 at the buzzer. Fun game!

Day 10: WNT travels to Germany

Long day of travel! Started off with a bus ride to Gare du Nord in Paris. Took the 10:55am train from Paris to Koln, Koln to Hamburg, Hamburg to Rostrad, and Rostrad to Stralsund. We arrived at 1:20am, with our hosts waiting to pick us up and take us to the dorms.

The dorms are really nice, and our hosts stocked the kitchen with food and drinks. After arriving late, most people headed to bed for the night!

Four long train rides, but everyone arrived in one piece with pretty high spirits...

Day 9: USA vs. Paris

Tough game...

USA 21, Paris 27

Exciting game in the stadium, including a big percussion band that played throughout the game, adding an interesting element to the match.

Final standings in the tournament:

1st Place: Israel (2-1)
2nd Place: Paris (2-1)
3rd Place: USA (1-2)
4th Place: London (1-2)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Day 8: USA vs. Israel

The morning started off as usual with a walk to the gym and a 1.5 hour practice. The team focused on preparing their defense to stop some of Israel's key players, mainly the right wing and the left back.

The afternoon was fairly relaxed, with the WNT eating lunch on campus and taking a rest before gathering for a stretching session at 3:30pm. After stretching and eating some snacks, the WNT loaded up the bus to head to the gym with plenty of time.

When the team arrived at the gym, the players got to enjoy watching the end of a children's handball tournament. Everyone was impressed to see a bunch of 6-12 year olds playing handball! We definitely have some work to do, but it would be great to see kids playing handball at this age in the US.

After a nice warm-up, the WNT exchanged pins with Israel and each team's National Anthem was played. The WNT was proud to announce that tonight's game was the 25th international match for Edina Batar, and the first for Jenny Choi, Jen Haubrich, Melanie McCormick, Sarah Gascon, Erika Bohn, and Sarah Merkl.

The first half ended 9-8, with the WNT ahead by one point. Coming into the second half, the game was within reach. Sadly, the second half took a dive. Perhaps we were a little too overconfient, but the intensity wasn├Ąt there. We were plagued by 2 minutes and 7 meters (there were 10 in the second half), and the game finished with Israel winning 27-16.

Pictures soon...