August 14 - August 25: 2007 American University Women's Basketball Australian Tour
The 2007 American University women's basketball Australian tour was a once in a lifetime experience for the Eagles. On Aug. 14, the team embarked on a 24 hour journey around the world that led them across the international dateline and to the land "down under." During the course of the trip, American spent its first five days in Melbourne before flying to Sydney for the remainder of its adventure. Combining great basketball with exploring everything Australia had to offer, AU played three games in eight days against Frankston, the ITC Squad and Bendigo. The Eagles went 2-1 on the court, winning its first two games, before falling 84-61 to Bendigo.
While in Melbourne, the Eagles spent their days exploring the streets, shops and cafés throughout the city. The squad enjoyed dinner on a tram restaurant that explored the sites of Melbourne from a unique angle. On a four-hour bus tour through the city, McFerrin and her team visited Captain Cook's cottage, the Shrine of Remembrance and the Victorian Market, among many other sites. Before leaving Melbourne, the team visited the Melbourne Aquarium and went to an Australian football game. On Aug. 21, the team flew to Sydney where they were immediately taken to Sydney Harbour on Captain Cook's Cruise. The cruise was followed by a bus tour throughout Sydney, where the team visited Bondi Beach, the Opera House and additional sites. Among the trip's many highlights was the Koala Park, where the Eagles had the chance to pet koalas, feed kangaroos and see animals unique to the Australian Outback. On the way back to the hotel, the squad visited Olympic Park, where some of the best athletes in the world competed not long ago. American University's last day in Sydney was arguably the most exciting day of the trip. AU women's basketball climbed across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which reaches the height of 440 feet. The view from the top of the bridge is the best the country has to offer. The Bridge Climb, which only two million people in the world have had the chance to experience, took approximately three hours to complete. The 2007 Australian tour was completed with a farewell dinner at a beautiful restaurant located along the water with a breathtaking view of the Sydney Opera House. The evening culminated the once in a lifetime experience the 2007-08 women's basketball team shared and will always remember.
"As you know, we had many things come together at a very late date to allow our current team, and our incoming freshmen, to enjoy this trip together. There is much appreciation from our group to you," said Head Coach Melissa McFerrin. "Without your efforts ... organizing, expediting, financing, preparing, well-wishing, etc. ... this trip could not have become a reality."
Continue reading below for daily logs written by your 2007-08 Eagles during their experience.
Ashley Yencho - Australia, Day 1 "Today was really tiring because it took three long flights to get to Melbourne. It was a total of 30 hours travel time and 21 hours in the air, but luckily the planes were awesome! Each seat had a TV screen on the back with a remote control, with over 160 movies, TV shows, music, and games to choose from. After arriving in Melbourne, we ate a quick lunch and had a short workout. Later in the evening, we had a hilarious team dinner on an old tram car with a crazy waiter named Joe. Joe sang Frank Sinatra during the ride and he was cracking jokes all night. What a great way to tour Melbourne! So far our trip has been a great experience, but we're very exhausted. Thanks again for all of your support!"
Michelle Kirk - Australia, Day 2 "This morning we went on an entertaining and informative tour of the city. We had the opportunity to visit beautiful St. Patrick's Cathedral, known for its classic gothic architecture. We also visited Captain Cook's cottage, where we discovered that Liz could play the role of a sixteenth century school boy perfectly (with a little help from staged photo cutouts). Tonight we played our first game vs. Frankston, a professional team that competes in the SEABL, and we came out on top, 60-48. All in all it was a great day and the experience keeps getting better."
Michael Wholey - Australia, Day 3 "G'Day mates! Wholey checking in from Melbourne, Australia. No worries for us here, we are having a blast. We started off our day by getting knocked up (the common Aussie term for a wake up call) at 7:30 am for breakfast. I finally gave Vegemite a try. Vegemite is a black jam very popular with Aussies. It is our form of jelly. I can't say I was too big of a fan, it was way too salty. I put it on a crumpet and didn't get past two bites. After we finished up with breakfast we headed to the Melbourne Aquarium. Creepy Critters was the main attraction. We stayed for about three hours, and saw a number of animals. Some of the hits were the Japanese Spider Crab, the Leafy Sea Dragons, Jellyfish, and talking with the divers. Check on the website for pictures to be coming soon! After the aquarium, the team split in several different directions. I decided on a game of "footy" with several of the players (Ashley Yencho, Michelle Kirk, Ohemaa Nyanin, Sahar Nusseibeh), Ed Ryan our athletic trainer, and Matt and Tennille, our other assistant coaches. The match was between the Essendon Bombers and the Carlton Blues. Australian Rules Football or "footy" was a new experience for us ignorant Americans. The rules are hard to describe but it is a combination of soccer, football and rugby with minimal rules and a good deal of contact. Going into the game we decided we would root for whichever team's cheering section we ended up finding seats. Well, as it played out, we bought tickets for the match at the gate for $19.50 and were pleasantly surprised to find 8 seats in a row just a mere 20 rows back from the field in a major Essendon Bombers cheering section. After an up and down first half, our Bombers rallied from 20 points down to come out victorious 97 - 86. We have all been officially converted to Bombers fans as we left with souvenir scarves, balls, and buttons in our new team colors red and black.From the stadium, we walked back to our hotel with cheers from our new bombers mates and boos from the disappointed Carlton Blues fans. Quite possibly the most amusing event that I have witnessed on our stay here was Coach Corkery engaging in a sing along to the tune of the Essendon Bombers team fight song with an elderly Melbourne man. After the game, our entire team reassembled for a wonderful dinner in Melbourne's Italian district. It was an excellent cap to my most enjoyable day in Australia. Hopefully there are many more to come."
Liz Leer - Australia, Day 4 "Today started off with another delicious breakfast in our hotel, but then it was off to the races again. We of course had to visit, actually completely clean out, the Queen Victoria Market just one more time. We bargained with the Aussies and took care of our souvenir shopping. Then we enjoyed another finger licking meal at one of the many street side restaurants of Melbourne. We followed lunch with a small rest to recover for our game. The game took place only a half an hour away in the suburb of Coburg. We took care of business and worked hard to get the win. The second half was when we really shut them down defensively and had some good runs on the offensive end. Now we are off to enjoy yet another fantastic dinner in the lovely city of Melbourne."
Matt Corkery - Australia, Day 5 "August 20th is day No.5 for us in Melbourne. We had most of the day free, so Coach Wholey and I decided to take photos of sights around the city. We began at Flinders Station, which is just a few blocks from our hotel. It is the central train station in Melbourne and it is a beautiful building that has been well maintained from the gold rush days. From there, we jumped on the "City Circle". This is a tram that, well, circles the city. Wasn't hard to come up with that name! We made stops at the Victorian Parliament and Carlton Gardens before arriving at the Melbourne Docklands. The Docklands is a new development in the city featuring Victoria Harbor and the Telstra Dome. The dome is home for several AFL (Australian Football League) teams and features a retractable roof like many of our stadiums in the States. While in the area, we also met some fellow Americans "on holiday." After speaking with them, we found out they live in the DC area! Small world, indeed. Another stop Michael and I made was to "Harley Heaven". It's a motorcycle shop in the heart of the city. We boarded the bus this afternoon at 4:45 to head to Bendigo for our last game of the trip. It's a two hour drive northwest of the city and we are expecting the best competition we have seen so far. We have been pleased with the play of our team to this point. They are coming together on and off the court."
Liz Hayes - Australia, Day 6 "Today is my birthday (don't ask how old) and I had the most amazing birthday a person could ask for. We left Melbourne today and flew to Sydney! When we arrived in Sydney we were greeted by our interesting (to say the least) Australian tour guide. We were immediately taken to Captain Cook's luncheon cruise on Sydney Harbour where we had a delicious seafood buffet lunch and enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and the city. Everyone on the ship thought we were celebrities and asked to take photographs with us so we felt like rock stars! After the tour we went on a four-hour bus tour around the city of Sydney led by our tour guide, Cherie. Cherie provided A LOT of laughter and even caused Coach Matt to lose a bet with Coach Wholey (the content of the bet will remain within our team). The tour bus took us throughout the entire city and through neighborhoods with some of the most gorgeous homes I have ever seen. We also went to Bondi Beach and stuck our toes in the Great Southern Ocean. After the tour my wonderful teammates took me out for an Italian dinner, at Giovanni's, followed by a little birthday dancing! Today was an amazing start to our stay in Sydney and a day I will certainly never forget."
Stephanie N'Garsanet - Australia, Day 7 "Today the whole team was excited about going to Koala Park to see kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and all other types of Australian animals. During our visit to the park, we had an amazing experience. We fed the kangaroos and were also able to pet the koalas. The highlight of feeding the kangaroos was Michelle freaking out when the kangaroos jumped on her. She started screaming and ran away. Also, during our visit, we saw amazing types of birds. Liz Leer, who is an animal lover, tried to have a friendly conversation with a Cockatoo. The initial "hello" went well as the bird responded very politely. From there, things took a turn as the bird went off and screamed at her. Poor Liz was very scared and ran away (LOL). Finally the Koala Park, which was my favorite part of the trip because my longtime dream was to see koalas and kangaroos and I DID IT, THANKS TO AU."
Maggie Smith-Davidson - Australia, Day 8 "Today was our last full day in Sydney and we definitely went out with a bang. We woke up early and headed for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Most people just take pictures of the bridge and the surrounding scenery but that wasn't enough for us, we needed to climb it! We climbed 440 meters above the waters to the very top of the bridge! The view was nothing short of breathtaking, literally, for some of us who are not so fond of heights. We were secured by cables and all sorts of paraphernalia while we navigated ladders, suspended catwalks and iron girders to the bird's eye view from the top of the Bridge! This ended up being the highlight of the trip for many players and a few coaches (we leave you to wonder who couldn't wait to get off the bridge). Following the climb, a few of us headed up to Manly Beach to check out the scenery, restaurants and shopping. All of which were incredible. After a full day of climbing and shopping we had our last dinner in Sydney. What an amazing night view of the harbour, the Opera House and the Bridge that we conquered earlier in the day! We ate at a restaurant called Wolfies, spent the night reflecting upon our amazing trip to Australia and enjoyed some phenomenal food with our teammates and coaches. We had an amazing trip and thanks to everyone that helped make it possible."
Head Coach Melissa McFerrin - Final Shots from "Down Under" We began our last day of travel at 9am Sydney time and was on a plane (or waiting for one) for the next 32 hours! It was exhausting but gave us some time to reflect on our great experience and to enjoy each others company! And enjoy each other, we did! Last night at dinner, we asked each player and coach about their favorite part of the trip. Some are self explanatory but others, well, there is a story behind many of our favorite times together. I'll try to catch you up in those instances as best I can! I hope you enjoy the top ten list that we have compiled for our Australian adventure. In true David Letterman "Top Ten List" fashion ...
- The best things about Australia were ...
#10 - Celebrating Liz Hayes' birthday! We won't say which one (as a woman never reveals her age : ) Her Eagle teammates treated her to an Italian dinner and a little dance show.....Sydney style??? Perhaps she will show us her new Aussie moves!
#9 - Getting "kidnapped" by a Greek tour guide at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne (he mistakenly thought we were part of an educational program). As hostages, we had to endure his version of the plight of Greeks in Australia during the second World War and the many (and surprisingly varied) merits of the Greek mythology figure Hercules (you don't want to know). A mere 7 lectures topics and 25 minutes later, we managed to "escape" from his grasp. Thank you Pam Stanfield :)
#8 - Finding out that our incoming freshmen don't need lessons on how to "fit into a group". Personality and conversation come REALLY naturally to them (I think that is a good thing?). Ohemaa, you definitely have some competition in the personality department....... and Nicole, your mentoring skills will come in handy with this group!
#7 - Listening to Sahar Nusseibeh's colorful and unending stories (Sahar, we appreciate your entertainment value but you might have shared a bit too much........you know we like to tease and you gave us LOTS of ammunition). Suffice it to say that Sahar does not swim, does not like elevators and does not like heights. Interesting........given that we took a luncheon cruise and a ferry ride, stayed in skyscraper hotels and climbed a very large bridge.
#6 - Having a tour guide named Cherie! She was the famous (or perhaps infamous) Sydney City Sights Tour guide. She was from England. She shared with us that the common British term, POME, stands for 'Prisoner of Mother England' and "other" interesting facts about the many people of Australia. Describing her as a "colorful character" doesn't quite do her justice and she definitely did not use an approved textbook for this course. Talicia has the inside scoop on this one.
#5 - Wombats and Kangaroos and Koalas, Oh my! - An Aussie variation of a line from the Wizard of Oz (Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my) - Koala Park was a big hit with the players! We learned all about the marsupial family and were amazed that such a large "Joey" can fit in such a tiny pouch! While we didn't quite get the chance to cuddle with the Wombats, Kangaroos and Koalas, it didn't look like we actually had anyone brave enough to try (reference Stephanie N'Garsanet and her disappearing act from the following photo). Also, the jelly fish and the leafed dragon fish were hits at the Melbourne aquarium! Amazing creatures down under!
#4 - Dining on the Trolley Car in Melbourne - this was our first evening in Melbourne and we were fed, rocked, chatted and serenaded all around the city by a waiter named Joe! He sang Frank Sinatra and cracked jokes with the best of them. I think I even heard Ed Ryan, our trainer, joining in when we got to "Start spreading the News.........."!
#3 - Aussie Rules Football Game - "Bombers Up" and the Bombers fight song slipping through the lips of Coaches Matt Corkery and Michael Wholey as they chummed with the locals after an Essendon win over Carlton 147-142 .........priceless!
#2 - Playing 3 basketball games! It was very obvious that our returners had great summers and their improvements were evident. Uptempo action, defense and long range shooting were on display in Aussie Land (would you really expect anything else?). Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds..........still looking for more of those as we go into fall practice. Without exception, you can expect our upperclassmen to have lead this team in fine fashion. The freshmen also showed "their stuff". They only had 4 days to integrate into our team system so, they don't quite know what their "stuff" is yet, but they showed it anyway! We also found out that fouls in Australia are called a bit differently that in the States! It is a great start to 07-08!
#1 - Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge! - Maggie wanted to know if we could bungee jump from the top since "we are already up here"! No words can describe this ... just ask Coach T! Luckily, they gave us a hanky just in case we were overcome by "emotion".