Hawks Finish European Trip With Perfect Record
The team is scheduled to arrive back on campus at approximately 6:30 p.m. this evening (Monday).
Jonathan Easterbrook, director of marketing services for the university and the voice of Hartford women’s basketball, has been traveling with the Hawks and keeping a journal of the team’s experiences and impressions.
Read the first installment of Easterbrook’s journal.
Read the second installment of Easterbrook’s journal.
Easterbrook’s third and final installment picks up on Thursday, Aug. 25, as the team heads back to Venice for its second day in that magical city.
Thursday, August 25
The beauty of Venice is no less the second time around. We again take a boat to reach Venice and this day have a guided tour, provided by a retired history teacher and lifelong Italian. While Sarah is our tour leader, each time we head to a sightseeing destination, we have a different English-speaking guide to help us get the most out of our visits. The gentleman showing us around Venice adds a generous supply of humor as he leads us around. Venice has a resident population of only about 3,000. By the way, that's probably the number of pigeons you must dodge at any one time in St. Mark's Square. The guide assures us that the small yearly drop in the water level does not present an imminent danger to Venice. After the tour, we have more free time to walk around before heading to Game # 2 of the trip.
The setting in Marghera, a village outside of Venice, is in stark contrast to the setting where Game # 1 was played, in Arezzo. The gym is alive, the players have uniforms with numbers, and a large number of enthusiastic youngsters are on hand, many of whom start chanting "Hartford" at halftime. The Italians are smart. While in America, we struggle and ultimately mispronounce foreign names during international competitions. During this game, I am handed the microphone and asked to introduce Hartford myself. In the game, Hartford ends the contest on a 14-3 run to break a 51-51 tie and defeat the Marghera Giants, 65-54. Another win, another late dinner, and another post-midnight arrival back at the hotel.
Friday, August 26
We check out of the Novotel Hotel early in the morning (yes, sleep was short again) and make our trek to Como, about a four-hour bus ride. Once again, we make a mid-point stop in Verona, yet another charming Italian town. We have a couple of hours to walk the streets, grab the daily gelato (Italian ice cream), and take more photos. We arrive in Como about 2 p.m. and find the most charming of the four hotels we have stayed at. The Grand Hotel of Como lives up to its name. With hardwood floors, a location within walking distance of Lake Como, and an old-fashioned hotel feel (the oversized keys are handed to the desk each time you exit), this hotel is scenic and relaxing. But there is more basketball to be played and this time in a different country. We head north to Switzerland to face its top-level of competition, an A-1 team. How ironic that on that team is a familiar face in former University of Vermont standout Katie McNamara. She has just arrived in Switzerland to play professionally, and she has 24 points on this night to lead all players. But it is not nearly enough as Hartford stays unbeaten abroad with a 78-63 win over Riva San Vitale of Switzerland behind a 21-point performance by Danielle Hood.
Saturday, August 27
This morning we take a boat ride on Lake Como. It is postcard scenes—one after another—as we see awe-inspring views in the distance. Many famous and familiar names own villas around the lake, headlined by George Clooney, who is often seen in the streets. We disembark in Bellagio and have an hour of free time there. Then it is back to Como to prepare for the final of four games and the third in three nights. The bus takes us to Carugate, just outside of Milan. The opponent on this night is the Marvecs Basketball Club of Carugate, featuring a player who is 6’7”. For the second time this trip, player introductions are done and I am handed the microphone when the Hawks come out on the floor one-by-one. I tell Sarah, our tour leader and interpreter, that I am going to try and announce the words "coach" and “assistant coach" in Italian and proceed to practice saying them. I get the hint 30 seconds later when she says, "Just say them in English, they will understand." About midway through the second quarter (games are four quarters of 10 minutes each), I feel rain. Yes, a thunderstorm has come and the windows high above this older gym are open. Now why didn't I bring an umbrella into the gym? As the scorebook I am keeping starts getting wet as well, I am happy to see someone hand-cranking the set of windows closed. The Hawks trail, 28-26, at the half but score nine straight points to begin the third quarter en route to a 62-45 victory and a sweep of the four games. We arrive at a restaurant near the hotel at 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 28
It's on to Switzerland for the second time, this time accompanied by a sightseeing guide. We board the bus at 10 a.m. for the 30-minute ride to Lugano. Also for the second time, we are not asked for our passports as we cross from Italy into Switzerland. Now that we are starting to get the euro down, we are told that Switzerland will accept the euro but uses the franc, and one must be careful when buying items. Since most of the shops are closed on Sunday, it is not as much of an issue, but some who find souvenirs to buy discover they have been given change in francs. After 60 minutes of free time in Lugano, the bus heads back to Como, where we have our longest stretch of free time all trip long. A complete afternoon to do as one pleases. Some sleep, others walk around the village of Como, others head to a mall a short walk away from the hotel. The trip is winding down. One more group dinner, one last night in a hotel, and then it's a full Monday of travel back to the States.