Team AIST Women’s Lacrosse – June 9-18, 2012 – Blog by Head Coach Julika Blankenship.
Day 1- Departing from JFK
On June 9th our AIST group met at JFK airport where we would start our amazing adventure to Europe. As everyone arrived to the airport, each member traveling with us had on their AIST gear so we were able to identify our soon to be team members and travel partner. Although I came with 5 of my own players that I coach at Washington College, it was neat to see the players quickly bond and make connections…. Immediate friends. Our travel group consisted of a women’s lacrosse team, men’s lacrosse team and a basketball team. All excited to represent their country and play a game that they love!!
Day 2- Arriving in Heathrow
After a nice and quiet flight we arrived in London where we anxiously waited out our long 5-hour layover. We boarded the plan at 1245pm local time and reached our final destination at 335pm. We were excited to be in Munich and ready to experience Germany. We were welcomed by Chad and Kinsey our tour managers and got right on the bus to transfer to the Olympic Stadium were the 72 Olympics took place. Although the group was exhausted, it was great to get out of the bus and move around a little. After looking around for a few hours we got back on the bus and traveled to our hotel. After unloading and cleaning up we then had a group dinner right across the courtyard from our hotel with the whole group to kick off the trip ahead of us. I was already impressed with the German cuisine after just one meal. We enjoyed curry chicken and deep fried potatoes with an apple straddle for dessert.
Day 3- Bike Tour!
Feeling rested and ready to explore the group left the hotel for the city center where we would meet our guide and take a bike tour of the city. It was a gorgeous day and the perfect weather for us to explore. We met our guides that were with Mike’s Bike tours and after splitting into two groups we set out on our tour of the city. We were very impressed with all that we saw on the tours but even more impressed with the tour guides!! Both of them had a lot to offer and not only were super knowledgeable but very entertaining! We enjoyed lunch in the beer garden, which was definitely a highlight of the day and then continued on to finish up the tour. We spent a little more time in the city after the tour and found the famous Hofbrahous before heading back to the hotel to rest and get ready to head to back to the city for the evening.
Day 4- Here we come Prague!
At 830am we met the bus, which seemed to come pretty early for a lot of the group!!! We then traveled to Dachau Concentration camp, which definitely was a unique and somewhat, solemn experience for us. We were one of many groups of tourists that were also spending their day at Dachau. After a few hours of exploring we boarded the bus again and headed for Prague. We stopped about half way through the trip, after the border for lunch and most of us had our first, confusing experience with the Czech Krohn. We arrived at the Hotel Wolf in the early afternoon and get settled and ready for the evening into the city center.
Day 5- Let the lax begin!!
Hotel wolf was GREAT and really made us feel welcome. The family that owned the hotel prepared a great breakfast to start out the day! The group traveled into the city and started the tour at the Prague Castle, which was absolutely gorgeous. The tour continued through the castle and down to the Charles Bridge and final ended at the Astronomical Clock. This part of the city was incredible and definitely seemed to be the happening spot. We left the city and got ready for our first lacrosse outing of the trip!! We scrimmaged Prague sports at the SK Hostivar Sports Center. This is the venue we would be spending a lot of time for the next few days!! It was great to get out and start playing lacrosse. The Prague Sports team had a lot more talent then we were expecting but we still pulled out the win. This made us anxious and ready for the tournament play to begin.
Day 6- Lacrosse AND boat cruising J
We started our morning with the first of our Relaxed Cup tournament games against one of the Japan teams, Kansay Youth. This tournament was small-sided play, so 7 v 7 with a goalie, which was GREAT for us since we were so small in numbers. We won our first game without much worry although it was a challenge playing against the Japanese. They played a very different style of lacrosse then we were used to and definitely tired us out. We were short a few players due to injury so we knew it was going to be a long weekend if we did not conserve our energy!!! We won our next Relaxed Cup game later that day and were able to catch a little of the AIST men’s lacrosse game as well. Later in the afternoon we played our first game in the Prague Cup Elite Tournament. We played the Prague Sports team, which ironically had picked up several Americans since we scrimmaged them the evening before!!! It was nice to see some strong talent but was difficult without any subs and having played 2 games already in the day!! We ended up losing by one but played a great game and I knew we would bounce back quick!! That evening we went on a boat cruise that was put on by the Prague sports tournament, which was awesome! All the teams in both the men’s and women’s tournament came together to travel up and down the river and enjoy an awesome bbq and good music. It was great to see all the teams getting to know one another and meeting people from all over the world!!
Day 7—WE KEEP WINNING!
Although all the athletes seemed to LOVE the boat cruise…. Today seemed to be tough with little rest and rising temperatures!! We started the day with a 7v7 game against another Japanese team, which we won handedly, and then an Elite game against the Japanese that we also won! We were experiencing some more injuries and actually had one of the basketball players join us for our second game!! It was her first time playing lacrosse and she did great…. Really took one for the team! That evening we ended up eating dinner at the local restaurant next door that the boys named the “Meat House.” The food was amazing and so cheap. Just what we needed after a long day in the sun. Because the Euro games were on, several of the players went down to the city center to catch the games on the big screen, which seemed to be a blast whenever England was playing!! Those people know how to have a good time!!!
Day 8– One play off, one BIG WIN and a great evening!
We started the morning our normal wonderful breakfast and then traveled over to the sports facility for round 1 of 7v7 playoffs. We won… obviouslyJ which placed us in the finals the next day. At this point in the tournament, we were all spending LOTS of time at the fields and enjoying getting to know the other teams, both with the men’s and women’s tournament. It was really fun to have the men’s AIST team to support as well. They were also having a lot of success in their tournament, which made for a lot of TEAM AMERICA excitement. We played the most exciting game of the day this afternoon against the Czech National team. They had a LOT of talent and several players would absolutely play D1 in the states. We were very tired at this point but knew we would pull off a win if we fought hard enough. We were down by 4 goals at one point but did come back and win the game with just a few minutes left in regulation. We had to stahl for the last few minutes to insure a W but pulled it off!! That win clinched the Championship for the Elite tournament and made my team very very proud. That evening we took part in a tournament wide social put on by Prague sports that was a blast and another awesome event that brought all the teams together. We were so impressed by all that Prague Sports did for us, apart from all the great things AIST had planned…. it seemed to be one fun event after the next!!
Day 9—THE SECOND ‘SHIP
Today was an exciting final day in Prague!! After breakfast we traveled to the field to catch some of the men’s team America’s first game of the day, which they won! In the early afternoon we participated in the Championship game of the 7v7 tournament and comfortably defeated the second seeded team, Prague Sports. We hung out to watch the men’s championship game and then participated in the trophy ceremony! Team America had a lot of pride with 2 tourny trophies in our hands! We traveled as a group that evening to a restaurant/show in the city that I would compare to Medieval Times restaurant in the states. The food was amazing and it was very entertaining to say the least. At that point we headed back to the hotel to get prepared for our VERY early departure in the morning.