Aug 29, 2013
Our Foreign Adventure -- by Kim Barnes Arico
Wow, incredible, fantastic, amazing, magnificent and so many other words I can use to describe what we have experienced the past 10 days. In some ways, it feels like we have been gone forever, and in others, it feels like I can spend two more weeks connecting with this group of young women.
From a coaching perspective, this was my first foreign tour. I had never been to France or Italy, and taking a young, inexperienced team like ours was something that was very exciting. As you know, we got to play three games. Our competition wasn't great and we won all three by a large margin, but I learned so much about our group of 11 players that will be beneficial when preparing for our upcoming season.
Nicole Elmblad, one of our experienced returners, led the way and even earned MVP honors after our first game. Her conditioning level and ability to sprint the floor resulted in her scoring many easy baskets in transition. It surely wasn't a surprise that she ran a 5:52 mile before we left on the trip. It was great to see our crew coming off ACL injuries last season return to the court. I watched them train with strength and conditioning coach Bo Sandoval and athletic trainer Melissa Pohorence all offseason and they definitely returned with a pep in their step. Val Driscoll scored some tough points inside, Kelsey Mitchell dominated the boards and Rebecca Lyttle recorded some blocks to contribute to our highlight reel.
Kendra Seto and Cyesha Goree gave us a presence inside that will be needed for us to be successful in the B1G. The guard play, led by our newbies and Madison Ristovski, was something to be excited about. They were able to set the tone with their defensive pressure and limited opponents' easy baskets. Siera Thompson carried on the Thompson name (the recently graduated Kate Thompson) and hit 10 three-pointers in her first two games. Danielle Williams proved to be one of the toughest players on the court -- a mini Jenny Ryan. Shannon Smith demonstrated why she is a winner in every sense of the word, while doing whatever it takes for our team to be successful. Paige Rakers showed incredible athleticism as well as the ability to consistently knock down the three.
Highlights for me as their coach were how hard everyone played and how they played together as a TEAM. We made extra passes on offense and pressured teams on defense. We cheered for our teammates from the bench and each player was truly honored to put on the Michigan uniform. I know we have a lot to improve upon, but I know everyone back home would have been proud of how this team represented the block M.
Off the court highlights are also endless ... where to begin!? Paris -- the City of Lights. The Louvre was great, but the Eiffel Tower was the highlight, along with, what else, crepes! It was fascinating to watch players with a fear of heights overcome that and do something that they didn't think was possible. And really, for me, the trip was about doing, trying or seeing things that we never knew existed or were possible.
Nice was incredible. Growing up at the beach, I never pass up an opportunity for sun and swimming! This trip, along with encouragement from the staff that went before me and the players, I went parasailing with my husband Larry. It was a breathtaking view that ended with a face plant into the Mediterranean Sea and was special for sure. I really enjoyed watching all the players out on the banana boat and them all venturing into the water. For Madison, it was her first time at a beach and it was Siera's first time in water that deep -- a lot of firsts. Dinner on the water is always a favorite of mine, and the meal of spaghetti and clams, along with it being Sarah's (VanMetre) birthday, made for a delightful night.
Monaco was beautiful, as was Florence. Florence was dangerous as well because I got caught spending too much money with Lisa (Savoury) at the leather store. I normally don't carry a purse, but I left Florence with three new leather purses, along with a few other leather purchases. Being on a trip with 27 women, especially my shopping group of Becca, Danielle, Joy McCorvey and Sara Schinske, can be a danger to the wallet!
I think Rome is a must-see city. It has such incredible history, and our team enjoyed learning about all of it. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the food. Each meal throughout the trip continued to get better and better. It was thrilling to watch the team try new food and experiment with different kinds of pastas and sauces. Having the opportunity to walk the streets of the city and eat some of the best food in the world, most notably the gelato, was just awesome.
There are so many things I will take away from our trip. Team 41 began earlier this summer when the freshmen moved in and will continue through the season, but these two weeks -- starting with a pre-trip barbeque at my house and ending with this flight home -- will forever hold a special place in my heart. As a staff, we always talk about what makes a team or a place special ... and it is the people who do that. Starting with Nancy Lohr and Claudia Borders, who helped make this trip possible and got to connect with the team throughout the journey to Lisa Savoury, Dave Brandon and everyone at Michigan who gave our program an opportunity to take this journey.
Our support staff, our managers, athletic trainer Melissa Pohorence, strength and conditioning coach Bo Sandoval and media relations director Sarah VanMetre -- for being the best at what you do, Michigan women's basketball thanks you.
I enjoyed connecting with our young women away from the court. The chemistry that we were able to build and the culture that we want to continue to create was represented at every moment of the trip. The tour guides, tour director and servers were constantly complimenting them during the 10 days for their standard of excellence. We had so much fun, we smiled, we laughed, we played together and we won. We are always striving to make Michigan proud and represent the block M, and our young women did that on this trip. They all realize that it is about something bigger than them and we were all very grateful for this trip.
Last night, we ended our trip by singing the greatest fight song in the world down the streets of Rome. Hopefully, we will sing it many more times this season. Go Blue!
Contact: Sarah VanMetre (734) 763-4423