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ODP Region 1 Team Trip to Croatia - Paige Stinson

Paige Stinson (Xpress 96G Green) was selected for the ODP's Region 1 Trip to Croatia.  The team departed on March 3rd and will return on March 12th.

More information and pictures can be found on the ODP Region 1 Facebook Account>>

The following is a blog from one of the parents documenting the trip in Croatia.

Days 1&2 

After we checked in to the flight last night, passed through security, we wanted to set the ground rules with the girls and get a group activity going so the girls get to know each other. The staff got together and while sharing thoughts for about 5 min and came up with a great plan. We turn around to share our brilliance with the team on how we are going to get them to know one another and low and behold we were taken aback. We look and the girls were all sitting in a circle, talking and getting to know each other already, totally stealing our thunder. We look at each other and before we could say anything each one of us has our phones start to go crazy, we are looking at it but to much is happening at once! It turns out the girls started a group text and we got 18 texts right away! All 4 adults are looking at each other inquisitively and it was at that moment we knew we had a special group of girls going on this trip.

With our game plan changed we just told them to grab a snack, get hydrated and let them be to continue what they started. We get on the plane , seven hours later , a meal and a snack and then we land I London. Everyone excited and getting off the plane we proceed through security and on to the transit lounge. We let the girls go get breakfast and the staff walks off to get the lay of the land. There was a hint of fresh bakery in the air and just the thought of coffee, pastry, bakery stuff got us going. We settle at a little café and have our coffee, tea, and choice of bakery item. We signed on to the free wifi and signaled home we were safe and sound.

Off to board our next fight to Milan. We arrive in Milan, clear customs no problem and then head over to a rest stop for Lunch. The staff is skeptical as what we know as a rest stop is nothing but fast food and not good. We stop at the AutoGrill get off the bus and do a light stretch. Inside for a light lunch. To our surprise it was like a buffet but everything was made fresh. From the fruit salad, to the meat on the grill or the fan favorite was the pasta pomodoro that most of us had. Mmmmm so good.

We get back on the bus and head towards Venice where we are spending the night. Tomorrow we go on a walking tour of the city and then will head towards Umag in the afternoon.

Paige is in the back row, second from the left

Day 3

After a long day of traveling and some up ahead we had a great night and just crashed at the Hotel in Venice. We wake up bright and early to a nice breakfast buffet. Lots of fruit, yogurt, veggies cheese and fresh baked croissant . . . . mmmmm it was good. After loading the bus we head to the back of the hotel and catch the train in to Venice. We took the next 4 hours walking through the interesting city of Venice with its 415 bridges crossing the canals. It was an amazing day!

Just before lunch we walked through a little alley way and then entered in to a huge court yard! Piazza de San Marco a huge square with the main cathedral, a lookout tower, old prison and castle. This is the heart of the venetian culture. We snapped a few pictures and then went to visit the Cathedral. It was beautiful with the gold leaf ceilings, marble floors and columns, the artwork, carvings and sculptures were breath taking. As we exited the Square we saw the Gondola Central where they were all trying to get us to take a ride. Unfortunately we were not able to as Coach Tucker insisted if he was not allowed to sing we were not riding.

We all split up to go our separate ways for lunch I had an amazing pasta dish most of the girls got pizza at a café. We meet up an hour later to see Coach tucker walking over with a little pep in his step . . . . . . . .you have to understand that Coach is super excited to be here and just wants to do something special for everyone. At breakfast Tucker witnessed me having a tiny croissant . .. . or two at the hotel. So he found the largest one he could find in Venice and bought me 3! Now at the same time he gave them to me we witnessed a ton of pigeons in the square, the min I pulled out the first croissant they all flew at me like I was covered in bird food. Ooohhhh that started the fun, we had a few of the girls take a piece of the bread and hold their hand out. The pigeons had fun flying and eating out of their hands while the girls screamed it was a sight to see. We get cleaned up, hands sanitized and then on our way back to the train station. On the way our guide Paul stopped and told us you cannot leave Italy without getting Gelato! So he bought us all a cone , we walked across the Rialto Bridge one more time, took a picture and then off to the train station!     Wait. . . . . . what’s that over our shoulder? . . . . . oooohh it’s Katia hands in the air just looking out for us

We get on the train, to our Bus and head on our Journey to Umag. We travel through the country and get breath taking vistas of the snowcapped Italian Alps and in Slovenia the beauty of the town below on the coast of the Adriatic sea. We get in to the new hotel, quick check in and change and then off to training.    Day 3 is now complete. Time for Bed as we have an important week ahead of us

 

Day 4

We are now in Umag getting used to the surroundings. Last night we came in just after sunset and it was dark outside but when we woke up this morning, sun shining we look outside and see the beautiful vista of the Adriatic sea about 100yds from the hotel entrance. Breakfast is excellent and now out for training. Today is all about preparation, getting ready for the challenge at hand. Last night at training the Polish coaches came to watch and scout our session. Eilidh looked and saw that and it lit a fire in her and she was ready to go. At todays session we started to warm up and do the first activity, Eilidh was not playing in the session but she was fired up and you could tell. The girls are doing well, setting up and executing the set plays the coaches put in front of them, and then all of a sudden Coach Tucker had the ball at his feet and we watched as Coach Eilidh saw red and went in for a slide tackle! Tucker of course skipped out of the challenge so there was no harm done but she wanted to set the tone!  The kids took her energy and we channeled it as we ended the training on a high when they put an exceptional cross and finish!

We get back to the Hotel, grab some cash and then off to the center of Umag to see the town. We spent an hour downtown taking some pictures, walk around and then back to the Hotel. While downtown Eilidh who is naturally energetic decided to embrace the culture and join Jen and Tucker for an espresso. Well that rich, extremely caffeinated tiny cup of coffee took her by surprise and for the next 3 hours I have never seen anyone walk, bounce, talk, twitch as fast as she did.  

We get back to the hotel, lunch and then a little downtime. 3:pm and we are off to Training. Immediately Eilidh put on a pinnie and started running around, I think she ran more than anyone on the field that day. We get in to training (Eilidh of course buzzing around) and I walk over to watch a few min of the group a matches. Serbia v Belarus is going on next to us. The Croatian team is watching and one of the girls starts talking to me in English. I find out she is from Miami but lives and goes to school in Zagreb now. wow that was awesome. She then brought over another girl that was 20 and her name was Natalie Seacoast from NY.  She started naming off a bunch of coaches as she played NY ODP and for Region 1 as a young player. She is now currently playing at Northwestern and is on the Croatian National team. I ask how old they are and they are 20 and 21. I then learn that this is the full Croatian national team here and not their 20’s. they go on to tell me that Serbia brought their U23’s, Chinese Tipae(Taiwan) brought their U23’s and all of the other countries this is their full women’s National teams. Wow ok our girls are in for a huge experience as they are playing against players that some might be 16 and 17 but others on the team might be 26-28 years old. When we told the girls there was a level of excitement in the room as they were ready for the honor and the challenge of taking on these players!

After Dinner we got a little bit of downtime and it was at that time Eilidh crashed! She whet up and took a nap for the next few hours to try and recoup some energy from all she put out today. Now time for a quick chalk talk and then to bed. Game day tomorrow and the chips are falling in place. Night everyone and we will see what tomorrow brings!

 

Day 5

Today is Game Day! The girls woke up and the excitement started right away. We get in the pool for a morning stretch and to get the blood flowing. Then off to breakfast. After breakfast we had a Study hall in their rooms for 2 hours to catch up on homework, and relax. Lunch time came quick, we ate a good meal and then headed in to a meeting. We set the starting line up, went over the tactics again for the game and then Coach Tucker gave an inspirational story to get them fired up.

There was an excitement in the air, Poland brought 2 teams their U19’s and their Full womens national team. so we were not sure who we were going to play up until game time. We get to the game and find out that the U19’s have a game tomorrow about an hour away so we will be facing the Full Polish National team in competition in just under an hour. The girls get dressed, Ref’s come and do the equipment check. We walk to the field to warm-up, confident and ready to work. It is a bright sunny day about 60 degrees, a slight breeze to our backs and the warm-up is crisp. These girls are ready. 25 min passes in a blink of an eye and we are back in the locker room to finish our preparation.  The ref blows her whistle and we line up to walk to the field.

The game starts, it’s a tense few min as both teams are feeling each other out. In the first few min one of the polish fwd’s makes a slashing run through the box, latches on to a ball and sends a fierce strike towards the far post. Lucky for us we had Dani in Goal and she with the quickness of a jackrabbit got down and knocked the ball wide. Poland got a corner that they put in and Dani coolly collected it and sent us now attacking fwd. The game started to become a midfield battle, Poland’s captain got the ball and did a little flick around one of our mids, not cool, so Andi got the ball and as a Poland player came to crunch her with one silky motion leaned to one side baiting the Poland player and then put the ball through her legs “Nutmeg” and continued to attack. We went back and forth as Maddie and Andy skipped through tackles. We had Mac Attack in the back who was a rock and won everything in the air.  In the 18th min one of the Poland players broke through the midfield and Maddie chased her down like she stole something. She went in for a slide tackle and won the ball, as soon as the Poland girl saw her coming in she leaped in the air, let out an ear piercing scream and twirled like a ballerina 3 times in the air before landing on the ground. We all held our breath and just heard the ref whistle as she ran and pointed to the pk spot. The captain stepped up, Dani stretched wide was ready, the ref blue the whistle, Dani dove the right way but it was a perfectly taken penalty and they were now up 0-1.

We start the game again and see that our girls thankfully have not let the goal phase them. Gracey and Al are on the flanks running at the other team any chance they get. Italia is battling to keep any ball up top to try and spark our attack. Britt is a calming force as she is playing her non traditional position of D. Center mid. Shy and Mac are holding it down at center back while Caitlin and Emma are the 2 outside backs. The game is back and forth and while we did not have a lot of attempts at goal, neither did Poland. Just before ½ time we were defending at the top of the box, a Poland player started to dribble inside, pushing and bullying her way through the crowd. Mac as usual steps up to stop out the danger. As she goes in for the tackle the girl pushes the ball fwd, kicks Mac’s foot, screams and drops like a sack of potatoes!  Uuuggggggg! Not again! Yup! Another PK.     The same girl steps up to take the kick and buries it in the same corner. The ref blows the whistle and we go in to ½ time down 0-2.

½ time was quick and we were back on the field ready for round 2. We made 1 Sub Erica came in as the GK and then we were off to play. Erica was a rock at the back making multiple saves to keep the other team at bay, her distribution was like a rocket as she shot the ball out to the flank players or punted it to our fwd’s . we came close with a shot in the 2nd half and Poland had one effort hit the post but in the end you see the picture of the Poland women working their buts off, some of them twice the age of our girls, their coach nearly on the field screaming at the top of his lungs as they were unable to break down our fortified defense to score a goal from open play.  A little clever play, a little acting and a voice like an opera singer was what got them their goals today nothing else!

As we walk to the locker room one of the Polish girls started talking English to us. She said that she was 21 and on an exchange program fromBucknell Univ and she was studying in Poland for the year. Her grandparents were polish and that qualified her to play for them. We asked what was the youngest and oldest age of the players on the team. They had 3 of their U19 girls joined them for this game, the majority of the girls were 22-27 and the team captain was 35 years old. Officially making her older than 2 members of our staff.   When we got back to the hotel and looked up where they were ranked and out of the 118 teams in the Fifa womens rankings Poland was ranked 31. For our girls to go up against such competition and come out of it with 0 goals scored from open play is excellent! We are so proud of them!

We got back to the hotel and needed to start the recovery process so we wanted to have ice baths for the girls. Well the hotel could not provide us with enough ice so we did the next best thing. We went and did it in the Adriatic Sea. 20 min of screaming, singing and whining is what we heard while we had the girls in the water. We got out, then off to Dinner, a little more down time, and then our team meeting.

As a treat we decided to forgo the team meeting and got Pizza for the girls tonight, time to relax, go to bed and start preparation tomorrow for the next game vs Hungry in 2 days time.

Day 6

Last night we went to bed with an air of accomplishment as we denied the 30th ranked team in the world a great feeling!

Today we went to see the old city of Rovinj, Croatia. On the drive over we went over a few cool cities with each one you see the church steeple as the a tallest part of the town with a tightly packed community around it.   We cross over another bridge and look down in the valley and see an old ruin of a castle. Absolutely breathtaking.

We then get to Rovinj right on the water and looks like it's right from a tourism magazine. I have had the pleasure of traveling to many places in my life and to see a little town so beautiful ranks up there with a few of my favorite places ever! We take a few min to take some pics on the seaside and then we progress to climb the small cobblestone streets to the summit where we find the church. Tucker paused for a moment and then retrospectively looks back on his 89 years of experience and says "this is somewhere I want to bring my wife and show her how beautiful I am on this hill top" Jen our trainer is always looking for any way to make a normal, beautiful picturesque day in to a fitness opportunity ! We let the girls go in small groups as they are walking away Jen is telling all of us to walk with high knees, keep our stomachs tight to work on our abs, etc. The staff are walking together and as Big D was trying to keep up, Eilidh was breathing hard, Tucker was looking for a breathing apparatus we are following Jen's lead as she powers up the street.

Wow what a view from the top! It was amazing as there are places on earth that are this beautiful , this unique, and we have never imagined we would be here. The sun was shining not a cloud in the sky about 65 degrees , we are in a special place and it seems like a little slice of heaven.

On the opposite side of the city we walk down another winding street where there are a few shops open where we find some beautiful paintings, postcards, scarfs and stuff great featuring the city beauty. We get to the bottom and there are a bunch of outdoor cafe's where we decide to get a drink. Before we get a chance to order Jen asks if they have veggie shakes, the waiter looks at us inquisitively , she then asks about protein shakes?, nope none either, in a huff she gets up to go inside and talk to the owner about the healthy options on the menu. We order quickly, I get a fanta, Eilidh a red bull, Tucker a quadruple espresso, and we order Jen a Cappuccino (her little weakness) as she came back she smiled and we enjoyed a  little moment seaside.

We see the girls start to come down out of the street with smiles on their faces as you could just feel the happiness, joy, and good feeling in this town. We hop back on the bus back to the hotel, lunch and then training . Back to work, we take on Hungary tomorrow in game 2 . They tied Croatia 2-2 so we don't know what to expect but looking at the training session today we look like we are ready.

after the game we wanted the girls to take an ice bath but we could not get enough ice. So we did the next best thing we decided to go in to the Adriatic sea! Most of the staff stayed on the bank while the kids went in but of course our very own superwoman decided to jump in with them!






Day 7

Today is game day! We take on Hungary’s full National team in a few hours. The girls are up for the challenge , we do our pool stretch in the AM to get our bodies ready and then we head over to breakfast. After breakfast a few of the girls (Gracie, Mac, Emma, Danielle, andMillsy) walked outside to see what the temperature was. There was not a cloud in the sky, the wind was softly blowing and they stood thereas the sun kissed their cheeks. Gracie took a deep breath, looked at Mac and in a soft voice whispered“I believe” and then closed her eyes and started singing “Let it go, let go I’m one with the wind and sky . . . . . . “ the rest of the girls looked at her, smiled and Mac says ”Letsdo this! “ and they all walk inside to the meeting.

Tucker gives them the tactics and then tells them a story aboutStone wallJackson and inspires imagination and a thought process that will help lead these girls in to the task ahead. A few hours of a study hall and then they are down to lunch and then ready for the game. 

In the locker room there is an air of calm, the girls are focused as they put on their shin guards and lace up their boots. Again we are playing a full national team but they tied Croatia 2-2 in the last game so we are not sure what to expect. The coaches the day before over a cup of double espresso took a few hours to watch and scout the game but the quality was not great. We line up to walk to the field, Sheyenne looks around to the other girls and just smiles, earrings shining bright, a bounce in her step she walks with the team to the field for warm-up.

We finished the pregame and are back in the locker room for the last pump up before we take the field. Tucker steps forward to talk to the team and then all of a sudden Emma and Maddie start to stomp on the ground and sing, “We will, We will, Rock you! “ the whole team joins in and the locker room starts to rock with the voices of the 18 passionate girls! Tucker steps back, nothing needs to be said and he opens the door for the girls to take that passion and energy out on to the field.

The opening whistle blows and we start to play, the first 5 min are back and forth Hungary gets a corner but so do we. We notice one of their players number 13 is pretty quick on the flank and seems to be involved in most of their attacking play but between our backs we seem to keep her shackled and not give her many chances. We have some wonderful play and this is a real battle we are going back and forth and our girls look good. In the 36thmin number 13 gets the ball on the right and is streaking down towards the goal, in a very intricate move she combines with 2 other players and then lays off the ball for an oncomingfwdad they score a decisive goal. We have an immediate response when Val, Emma and Maddie combine to getAndithe ball up top.Anditakes on the defender, takes a step one way, looks the girl in the eye, smiles, winks drops her shoulder, turns on the jets and decides to blow by her. She is off to the races and heading towards goal, we hear one of the Hungary Forwards gasp in grief as she seesAndiburn the Center back. The entire bench is up in anticipation and just asAndigets in to the box she puts a cross across the box to an on running Italia. The Hungary center back dove in desperation to stop the cross, the ball bounced up back toAndiwho latched on to the ball and hit a fierce strike out of the air to the far post causing the keeper outstretched to make a save and a defender in a panic to hit the ball out of bounds to give us a corner. Definitely the best chance of the ½ for us. The ref blows the whistle we are down 0-1 after 45 min.

We get in at ½ time and Tucker makes a few tactical switches and then we head back out to the field. We have been holding our own and if we can nip a goal in the 2ndhalf it might just open up for us to score more. The 2ndhalf starts and number 13 seems to be getting stronger and it is harder for us to control her. She gets the ball on the right and hits a knuckle ball that goes just wide. Danielle comes up with some huge saves in goal and the defenders are throwing their bodies on the line time after time, Hungary is getting stronger as the ½ wears on. They still cannot break through but we were getting further in to our end of the field. We get a break the girls put together 6 1 touch passes in a row and send Gracie racing forward, a girl tries to slide tackle her and take her down from behind but she powers through the challenge and strikes the ball at goal. Their center back throws her body in front and out for a corner. The game continues on and#13 for Hungary gets the ball from a cross and volleys home their 2ndgoal in the last 10 min of the game they scored 2 more goals the final was 0-4 to Hungary but our girls put in a valiant effort and can walk away with their heads held high.

As we walk off the field I ask the other coach about number 13, well we find out she is 23, she plays for Wolfsburg in Germany and was not in the Croatia game because she was playing in a Champions league game last week. She won the Champions league with them last year and is one of their upcoming stars. Wow what an experience for our girls to play against her. In the words of MsLoughren“ She kept coming to my side of the field, she loved me and I had to shut her down!”.

We got back to the hotel and jumped right in to the Adriatic sea for our recovery bath and then off to dinner. As you see in the 2ndpicture the girls are coming back from the sea as the sun is setting they are all in good spirits as they knew what they were up against today and how they reacted during that game was absolutely impressive to us!

Dinner together as a team and then off to bed as tomorrow brings another adventurous day as we prepare for the last of our matches but also get to see another great city of the region.




Day 8

We have had 2 amazing games and a great week to this point. Today we have training early and then headed out to a little coast city across the border in Slovenia called Piran.  We get there and it is the most beautiful little city on the water. There is a ruin of a castle up on a hill and you see the church and the town jutting out in to the water. We get off the bus and we stop to take a picture right on the rock wall as we get in.  we let the girls go off to explore the city while the staff climbs to the top of the city. We find an old Ruined castle where we can climb to the peak and overlook the whole of Piran. It was breathtaking and we are so appreciative that we get to see this beauty this land has to offer. We are up pretty high and I had to hold coach Tuckers hand as he was afraid of heights but after a few pictures we hopped back down and saw the rest of the city.  After we spend a few hours there we start to get on the bus and realize that the car that came with us will not start. The battery is dead, so we need to get a jump. Big D and Tucker get in the bus with the girls and head back to the hotel so we do not miss dinner, Jen and Eilidh stayed to help fix the car. They recruited a few people to help but when they tried to Jump start it the way the car was parked the cables could not reach, a little Slovenian guy comes out and says no problem I will fix. He proceeds to go in his truck and get out an extension cord, he takes a rock from the ground and severs the cord  stripes the protective sheeting off the cord splits the wires in 2 and hands it to Paul (our tour guide). Paul is holding one end of the split wire with his phone in his other hand, Justin has the other end of the split wire and the Slovenian mechanic goes to the Café near by and plugs in the cord. Paul, while talking on the phone proceeds to touch the open wire to the car, sparks flying trying to get it to start. Jen and Eilidh took refuge in the back seat of the car and are watching the excitement outside as the boys touch the leads, watch it spark, jump back and let out little screams when singed. The car lights come on! Then the car starts to roll forward towards the water! Eilidh and Jen look at each other and then Jen Jumps out of the car and grabs the door frame and with the strength of Big D digs in to restrain the car from rolling forward as Eilidh quickly jumps in to the front seat and puts her foot on the break! Whew what an adventure, the car is started and back home the 4 of them come, the get there just in time for the meeting and preparation for the next day!

Day 9

Today was weird as we had our game at 11:00am to prepare for departures. We get up and have breakfast and then start to get ready for the game. Coach Tucker gives out the starting line up but what is different about today is one players reaction. Keri V was in the back of the room, always with a smile on her face and in a happy mood, but when Coach said she was starting this game you saw her look up, a twinkle in her eye as she was ready for this opportunity. The team gets ready and starts to head for the bus, we are playing Croatia today the host team! We have seen them in the Hotel, we have scouted their games and we are ready to take them on.  Kerri has a bounce in her step, she is oblivious to the fact that we notice her mood but well aware of how excited she is and we see the positive vibes spreading through the team. We get to the field, the game starts and ooohhh does this look good, the girls are battling for everything and it shows as so far we are giving them problems. We got a corner, then another, the wind is at their backs but we are doing really well. We are giving them fits as Andi and Keri are not only playing well when we have the ball but putting their backs under so much pressure they are coughing it up, Gracie, Britt and Maddie are feasting on all of the loose balls the forwards are causing we are about 15 min in and they have the rare opportunity down the flank, they try to cross it but get a corner as it hits off one of our defenders. They put it in and its not a real threat, Erika calls for it and goes to dive for the rebound and a Croatian girls sees her, dives in front of her and collides with Erika. What ever she gets up reaches around her to get the ball and  . . . . . . . .TWEET .  . . . . she hears a sharp whistle and sees the ref running towards her. No one really moves, the defenders start to run up as we are expecting the kick and then she points to the spot, the entire Croatian team and bench let out a cheer and are jumping for Joy, we are flabbergasted as we cannot believe what is happening!  She gave a PK saying Erika fouled the girl, unbelievable ! they step up and score the goal. We are down 0-1 in the Poland game they played for the foul and through acting got 2 of them, this was no acting just sheer . .  . . . uuuggg I don’t even know what to call it we were so upset! the game continued, halftime score was 0-1, 2nd half the girls have a fire in them and are pressing the other team like crazy, Andi Nutmegs a girl, Gracie gets in to a number of crunching tackles! Mac attack in the back is winning every ball in the air. Croatia is struggling and you can see it on their faces, an equalizer is coming, its thw 78th min and we are getting a little tired but playing well. One of their players on the flank slips by our defender, we get in to a tackle and the ball luckily bounces out, she then just swings her foot in desperation and hits a great curling effort past Paige in goal. There was nothing she could do to stop that bullet of a shot. The final whistle blows! We lost 0-2, this game we came closer than any other we battled and can walk away with our heads held high.

The Staff felt great about the girls performance as they gave everything for us and felt hard done by the result, so what can we do to try and pick up the girls? Coach tucker talked to our tour guide to see if we can go and visit another city, there was one on the map Pula that we wanted to see and he knew a little something about it before we got there. We  get back to the hotel, get our ice bath and then get on the Bus to Pula.

When we get there we are met with the site of an old Roman Coliseum this thing is OLD! We take a few pictures and then head to the center of town, we find a Roman Forum in the city center and Tucker sits down the team. He proceeds to tell us that the Coliseum and the Forum have been standing since 200BC. Through wars, time, age they are still standing. When a building like this was built with care for a solid foundation, taken time to pay attention to details as it was erected, polished and maintained over the years it withstands all. Like their character on this trip, they were faced with adversity and it reveals character. He could not be prouder of these players and talking to them in front of this Monument that predates anything in our Country was just touching. We took a few photos and keeping with the old theme the staff took a photo resembling an 80’s album cover (please visit and like our Region 1 ODP Facebook page to see the photos)  

We head back to the bus and catch a glimpse of the coliseum at night and just reminds us what a wonderful experience we are having.

Tomorrow we leave and head back home, we don’t want to go but we must as this has been an adventure never to forget.





Day 10

Today is our last morning in Croatia. We wake up and again it is a pristine day with the temp already about 60 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and the hotel almost empty as we are the last team to leave. We go down to breakfast in the morning for the last time and enjoy the buffet they put out for us. The girls have a smile on their faces, they have enjoyed the time in Croatia so much they didn’t want to leave but yet were happy to be going home. For me that is the sign of a great trip! 10 days is a long time and to have the smiles on the girls faces on day 10 means something went right and they will not forget this trip for a long, long time.

After breakfast we load the bus and start heading towards the airport. Some napped, others stayed awake as we took in the beautiful vistas of the Croatian and Slovenian countryside. As we enter Italy we see the snowcapped mountains of the Alp’s in the background off the right side of the bus. The signs start to change languages to Italian and then we are by the Mediterranean coast again. We pull in to Venice and to the airport, check in and take a min to say goodbye to our guides Justin, Paul, and Eric as they are heading back to France. We join the security line which is a little long and start to wait to get through. It is taking longer than we expect but we are inching through. We start to get a little worried we still have to go through passport control and get to the plane. Our flight boards at 12:15 and its now 12:00pm. We start to get the first few girls through security and start to panic a little bit we are getting through but slowly, its 12:04 and we have 6 people through, they start to go through passport control and see the plane has already started to board.

12:07pm we have 14 through security and coach Tucker is bringing up the rear, we get players through passport control and on to the bathroom before we board the plane, Jen is at the counter talking to the gate agent getting him to hold the plane for us Eilidh is at the bathroom shuffling girls in and out to get them to the gate, Big D is behind the passport control counting and directing them to where they need to go. Working as a team its going but not fast enough, 12:17 they are closing the doors in 3 min. we get the girls all together and see the last 2 running towards us. We hand the tickets to the gate agents and start to board the flight! Phew! A little nerve racking but we did it! All of us are on the flight and heading home.

We get to London and have a few hours to eat and shop a little, the girls enjoy things like Starbucks (yeah I know my reaction was the same, Really!)  and they have heard me rave about the Croissants so each one decides to get a few croissants to enjoy the European style ones. Tucker goes to a stand and loves it so much he buys a dozen to take home, Jen was modest and only got  10. Eilidh said she was only going to get 6 but after tasting one got 6 more, 1 in every flavor available. They were all so nice that Big D took a bite of Tuckers and had a piece of Jens as well.  We take the train to our terminal, get to the plane and board our flight to Philly. 8.5 hours later and we are circling the Philly Airport waiting for clearance to land, the girls are cute as they are jittery and excited to get home. As we touch down Italia looks at all of the girls around them and breaks in to song “Born in the USA” all of the girls join in, Coach Tucker is beating the seat giving them a beat and Big D is hitting the high notes as we are all happy to be home.  We get off the flight, proceed through immigration and customs and end up outside, in to the arms of the waiting parents that are there.

After a few moments all of the girls notice they are still wearing their jackets huddle together arm in arm, look around at each other and with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces do 1 last cheer.  . . . . . . . . . . . .REGION 1! – USA Echoes through the hallways as they give each other hugs and go their separate ways home.

The end of the trip has come as they are on their last leg to their homes. It was a great trip, wonderful sights, games and experiences and a trip that will not be soon forgotten. I hope you all have enjoyed following our adventure as much as we did while there.