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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Food, Futebol, & Fun

June 22nd     Arise in San Marino and off to the Adriatic Coast to check out the Italian Riviera. 
 Rimini is known for it’s night life. During the day, we soaked up some sun, went for a swim and checked out the town.  Team dinner at a local restaurant at about 8:00 PM.  Our bus driver insisted that a flat screen t.v. be relocated to our section of the restaurant so we could watch the Italy / Brazil Confederations Cup match.  Not quite sure that would fly in America but am glad it does here. Go Roberto!  I mentioned the night life and we assumed it would pick up and we’d get to see some of the colorful sounds the city is known for.  Increasing numbers in the streets were obvious with each passing hour, but our tired bunch departed by 11pm and supposedly Rimini doesn’t start hopping until after midnight.  It’s a good thing we left as the town flooded uncharacteristically early the next morning.  We saw some photos on the internet and couldn’t believe it was the same beach town we had spent time in the day before.

Rimini at dinner time

Kelsea Brajkovich, Lindsey Bos & Jaclyn Softli

Boys sticking together on the beach

June 23
We arrived in Venice via boat to St. Mark’s Square where we had half a day to see the immense city. 
Rose Baker and Kasha Roseta

XL Travel Guru John Dickinson & Ben Griffin

Venice; a great place to lose yourself

The Archers in the Piazza 
Many floated past the shops, the Basilica, the Prisons, Dodge’s Palace via gondola while others were curious to go deep into the city via narrow streets and throngs of people to find the perfect memento.  

Newlyweds,  according to Alfonzo the gondoliere
Surreal to see water lapping against the edge of the storefronts while boats silently cruise by the diners and shoppers and businessmen with ease.  Elena, our guide, entrusted us to meet where she dropped us off.  From the outside, it seemed so simple, meet right back where we began.
The Piazza inVenice

However, once we walked deeper into the city it was amazing how each of us just wanted to go ‘a little further’ or see what the next cobblestone street or canal lead us to.

Up to this point, each bus back to the hotel has been full of chatter; either about how that was their new favorite city, how they wanted to stay longer, or how many gelatos our trainer Chris Melton had consumed.
Let's meet back at that one bridge... you know... with the boats underneath
Slowly but surely, the mealtime seating arrangements began changing.  Early on they were predictable: roommates together,  the freshmen class… what you would expect.   Our time together is allowing our team  time to realize we do have plenty in common and at the same time appreciating and enjoying each others differences. They have learned it is  more fun than always staying in their comfort zone.   Ben and Nick are steering clear of their boring parents and finding a seat next to a Husky.  They have been watching the Huskies play since they were born, they know them by jersey number and position.  I am happy they get to hang with fantastic young women at a young age. Between the castles and pizza, the boys can only soak up so much history so they constantly ask:  “When is the next game?” 

Lesle split the team into groups that will study, take photos, and present once back on American soil.  Topics to be discussed are;  Religion, Politics, Sports and Art & Culture.  It is no coincidence that players who were grouped together have different backgrounds and opinions about their topic.  Some players originally were hesitant to fight for their point of view, others frantically scribbling on a receipt to make sure the fact they heard was not forgotten. I look forward to hearing their points of view. 
Another day at the office
Throughout our journey many have been  appalled that  a public restroom  can cost one Euro.  I wonder what their take will be when they return to the states and they hit the public restroom.  I hope at least one thinks, “I would pay a Euro to have a clean toilet seat, a door that latches, some t.p. and a floor that isn’t damp”   I think a spotless public restroom is worth the Euro. Then again, I am not a college student… and the age where my quads are on fire when I have to hover over the seat. 

Heading back to the hotel 

Peaks and Pics of San Marino

Surrounded by Italy, San Marino is a country that spreads a mere 61 square kilometers (that is about 23.5 miles) P.S. throughout my travels I am constantly annoyed by our lack of ability to go metric.  Didn’t we all learn it in 3rd grade?  Come on already!!! San Marino is the oldest surviving Republic.  It’s 3 steep peaks and rugged slopes were a big reason it was a safe haven that folks left alone back in the day; it was just too difficult a terrain and too small a territory to fight over. 
Hotel is at the top of this peak in San Ramino
 Today, the 3 steep peaks with castles atop and the 360-degree breathtaking view make it a destination for many travelers.    Throughout it’s 1,700 year history, there have been many unique reasons San Marino has been able to keep its independence amidst all the political and powerful turmoil that Europe has faced.  Dating back from the days of the Roman empire to now, San Marino has always been a place of peace.  Abraham Lincoln became an honorary citizen during his tenure due to the fact he sent a personalized hand written note thanking San Marino for their support and congratulatory message when the 13 th Amendment was passed.
San Marino has 8 political parties, elects 2 presidents every 6 months. 
One of these things is not like the other.....
With 32,000 citizens there is a solid chance you will get to be president of San Marino at some point.  Would you like to become a citizen?

On guard
 If so, you need to reside in San Marino for 40 years or marry a citizen and stay married for a minimum of 15 years.
Lorengo government building
Atop the Prima Torre Castle
After crunching the numbers, Brendan and Jack decided they should begin their residency now as their window of opportunity was closing to make an Olympic Team. 
Jack & Brendan in preparation for the San Marino tryouts
Jack was thinking he would try his hand at the luge and Brendan was hoping for representing San Marino in World Cup qualifications.  

San Marino is known for perfume, lotions and stamps; but our team will remember the castles, Karaoke and their first attempt (meaning there will be more this Fall) at a Dutch Auction.  Teams of 5 are asked to perform impromptu which the staff gives points to.  Skits that earn the highest bid end up winning the Auction.  Highlights were Jammer’s impersonation of our bus driver and the team’s take on our pre-game meetings.
Huskies replicate our daily bus ride

Hillary's goal in the Final Four

One skit:, “A sports broadcast after the Huskies play a match in the College Cup.”  I am embarrassed to say that one member of our team asked, “Wait! Do we win or lose the game?" Hence, one of the main reasons we are loving this trip away from the daily grind.  It is clear our team knows how to work, compete and succeed when a specific task is set before them.  But, in the pandemonium of life we forget how healing it is to take a breath, slow down and yes, even dream.  Winning the College Cup needs to be so clear in all of our heads, we can feel the excitement, see WASHINGTON painted on the field and know we have it within our reach; it begins with a dream that we meld into a goal; together. 
Ready! Aim! Fire!

Sunset sisters 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pisa, Piazza and Pizza

Thursday, June 20-

After breakfast Roberto escorted us to Pisa.  The second you set your eyes on The Leaning Tower, you cannot help but immediately snap a picture for fear it will tip over before you get the perfect photo. 
Lindsay Elston
Try as one might to not be “That Tourist” it is impossible to not get your photo next to it; positioning your hand perfectly so it seems you are holding it up or pushing it over. It appears as if it is super-imposed or stuck onto a backdrop with a special projector.  Once you get over the fact you are standing next to something you have seen in dozens of movies and even more photos; you get a closer look. The pillars, the archways, even the stairs and windowsills turn into ornate tapestries.  Every section turns into it’s own story and is as elaborate as the Christmas ornament that only shows up on the grown up Christmas tree. This is not just Pisa, but every part of the infrastructure of every city we have visited.

In an era where we do not want to waste any time, it makes me stop and think what an extravagant project it must have been to design and construct these buildings. Today, we DVR our TV shows so we don’t have to watch a 15 second commercial, make sure we get our coffee “to go” and cuss at our computer when things don’t download fast enough. 

What would these cities have looked like if speed and cost effectiveness was the primary goal? There would be no doorways depicting Eden etched in bronze or statues of taught muscles of war heroes atop horses lathered from a journey that took place 500 years ago. 
Duomo inside the Piazza dei Maracoli

And the teamwork it must have taken?  Between hauling materials, designing plans that have never been attempted, sculpting statues and disseminating information from architects to laborers.  It could not have been easy.  Some buildings took generations to construct meaning many did not get to see the fruits of their labor.  For these buildings to be so beautiful and still standing everyone had to do their part no matter how big or small. This is what I want for the Huskies: to play a beautiful brand of soccer: together, building from the same plan in order to be the last ones standing at the end of the season, and leave a special legacy to the players and teams that come after them.   

So, the pizza near Pisa in the Piazza was splendid. My assumption that it would tower over the entire Piazza dei Maracoli (Square of Miracles) was wrong as each building in the square was just as magnificent.  The Piazza took form in 1064 and also includes  the Duomo the Baptistry and the Monumental Cemetery.   Fantastico!
Kelsea Brajkovich & Allie Beahan enjoying the view

After our daily gelato and many photos, we headed to the Cinque Terre region in Porto Venere, a beautiful town on the Adriatic Sea known for its sweet white wine, breathtaking views, medieval castle and the best pesto ever!  Seriously!  Who craves Pesto?!!  I didn’t … until today.       

Yes, we are cramming in another place of interest. I am hoping you are getting a good idea as to why it difficult to catch up to the day’s events.  Our driver, who can maneuver our bus as if he were driving a Ferrari, swooped us up and drove us to Sarzana to have a 5:00pm pre-game meal in the local clubhouse that was sweltering. A mere 3.5 hours later we hit the pitch to play against Arenzano Calcio Femminile.

The team was dehydrated from the heat and had been on their feet all day.

Hillary Zevenbergen heads one toward goal while Kate Bennett readies herself for the rebound. 
Gelato was still settling in their tummies after the sauna dinner. This wasn’t the best pre-game preparation for the Dawgs, but these things are much easier to overcome when realizing you are about to play a strong Italian team in Italy.  After re-living much of our history class, it was time to make some history of our own.

The thing that stuck out more than anything to me since we landed occurred about an hour before the game.  For the past few days, our gang had been meandering around, taking notes, packing, changing, in a 23-player amoeba of questions and uncertainties.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but our team seemed more aloof than usual when all of a sudden our pre-game began. The team snapped into an assertive, confident group of ONE.  Ah ha! The Dawgs are at home on game day! 
Jaclyn Softli and Hillary Z 
Through the warm-up until the end of the game it was the most relaxing time since we landed in Italy.  Everyone knows their role the expectation and the work that is involved on game day. Everyone loves being together on the soccer field.  Really? This is considered a workday?

It took awhile to crack the Italians, but once the cork was off, it was clear the team in purple would dominate the remainder of the game.  No need to recap as it can be found on

Seems as if Carlos made an appearance after every goal 4-1. Yes!
As hot and sweaty as we’ve ever been we boarded the bus and headed back to Montecatini  Terme which is where we began and were in bed a little after midnight.  It was both physically and literally one of the longest days ever; and usually when you hear that it sounds as if it drug on, but in this case it meant that we could not have crammed one more thing in without it being completely insane. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nothing cures jet lag like 48 hours of sensory overload!

Day 1-2 in Italy…Day 3-4ish of the journey:

Waiting to enter San Siro Stadium: Lesle's still got it!
Our team did unbelievably well during the 48 hours of travel and arriving early morning in Milan.   Being whisked away immediately to San Siro Stadium for a tour was just what the jet lag Gods ordered. 

Everyone was immediately introduced to what the soccer culture in Italy’s top division, Serie A, is like.
Stine Schoening... don't ask :)

Lesle was personally disappointed that we’d just missed the BOSS (Springsteen) playing San Siro, but that’s life!
Jammer sitting in Beckhams old spot

Laundry Bin Cover for AC Milan

Nicholas got to see where his man Balotelli plays and dresses, and Jammer got to sit in the locker seat of former AC Milan player, David Beckham! The team was probably a little relieved to see that our locker room at UW isn’t actually much less impressive that either the Inter or AC locker rooms…now UW baseball, football, volleyball, basketball, softball…they have Serie A licked.
Kelsea Brajkovich and Linsday Elston rub elbows with the greats!

Allie Beahan & Annie Sittauer strike a pose in Milan
After the San Siro we were off to the city center of Milan where we walked the area, shopped and admired the Duomo, the castle, and all of the historic sites of this great Northern Italian city.

Although in a bit of a fog, the team, staff and family members did a good job of soaking everything in! The XL Staff did a good job of keeping us busy day one to help us shake the jet lag on Day 2 in Italy. We checked into Hotel Leonardi DaVinci and quickly changed and headed to a local soccer club to train. 

We basically did enough to flush out the system, stretch after the long travel days and get even dingier than we already were…. finally back to the hotel, showers and our first Italian dinner! YUM and GOOD NIGHT. Nick, Ben and Zach continue to be outstanding travelers.  I think they miss the RV in Germany just a tad….but the trade off of hanging out with 23 college women has helped soften the blow.

Wednesday, June 19th:

Isabel Farrell loves to shop. 

Up and at ‘em this morning and on to Tuscany and the wonderful city of Florence to enjoy more religious, art and geographic history, as well as take in the outstanding shopping and vistas.  We admired the Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, and the S. Maria del Fiore

Isabel and Katey in front of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge; the oldest bridge in Florence

We had a guided tour from a German man named Reiner,
Reiner, Zach, Nick and Ben
and then spent a little time on our own walking the city. I’m pretty sure by this time everyone has had Gelato once or twice. Everyone wished we had more time in Florence, but the 102 degree weather made it a little easier to depart.  Whew, it was HOT!

Next we headed to the fields of AC Firenze where coach Vanni Sartina and Sorbi Artillio trained our team.  It was an excellent training comprised of technical work, possession and finishing. Amy, Brendan and I were happy to hear that many of the coaching points made to the players were the same points we make to them…maybe we should speak in Italian?  Bona notte! Spell? 

The coaches were impressed with the Dawgs and their level of play, and it was great to see how respectful these coaches were of female players.  After training we transferred to Hotel President in the spa town of Montecatini Terme where we enjoyed another great Italian meal of pasta, veal, salad and red wine around 9pm. Exhausted after another packed and extremely warm day off to bed we went where it really is possible that people were asleep before their heads hit their pillows!