More Than Competition

May 9, 2007

While most UI students are relaxing after finals week, the women’s basketball team will be preparing for a summer international competition May 23-June 2 in Greece. The Hawkeyes will play three games against Greece’s National Team, starting on May 27.

Even though there’s still a lot of work to do before the first tip-off, all the Hawkeyes, including Head Coach Lisa Bluder, are excited to go overseas and get some quality playing time. Bluder’s also excited about the team building chemistry for next season.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for coming closer together as a team. When you enjoy things off the court and you grow off the court, it usually helps you grow on the court as a cohesive unit as well,” she said.

During the 11-day trip, they will be spending time in Thessaloniki, Athens and Vouliagmeni. The extra time sight-seeing will give the Hawkeyes a chance to experience a new culture, something many of the teammates haven’t done.

“When you go on the actual trip, yes, the competition is great, but to me, just seeing the players experience a different culture, seeing them experience different foods or hearing different people talk or seeing incredible history or incredible art…just to see their worlds expand is really, really enjoyable for me,” she said.

The players are excited about experiencing a new culture and spending time together as well. Senior Abby Emmert is excited about the experiences she’ll have away from home.

“I’ve never been out of the country so I’m excited to see something different. The biggest thing is just hanging out with my teammates for 10 days and being able to relax and go to some nice hotels,” she said. “The memories that we’ll make with our team will be a lot of fun.”

Senior Johanna Solverson is returning from an ACL injury and may see some playing time during the trip.

“I’m looking forward to the team bonding and being able to play with the team and be in a real game situation, not just practice, but a real game,” Solverson said.

After transferring from Kansas State and sitting out all of last year, sophomore JoAnn Hamlin is ready to step on the court with her new team and also to see some of the things she’s learned about in classes.

“Greece itself is just really amazing, all the statues and buildings,” she said. “I took a class in high school that kind of did a little bit of Greek mythology so just to go and see all the stuff that you read about in the books is pretty cool.”

Teams are allowed to go on foreign tours every four years. The last time the Hawkeyes traveled overseas, they went to Italy. Bluder said the decision to go to Greece this year stemmed from the positive reviews for its tour.

Funding for the trip is mostly done through team fundraisers. They host a golf tournament every year; this year’s tournament is on June 20. The money raised during the last four years almost covers the entire cost of the trip.

While it would be nice to walk away with three wins, Bluder said that isn’t the point of the trip. Rather, it’s a chance for the team to see what changes can be made for the upcoming season.

“Really, the winning part is not as big of a deal as you would think because you’re going there to try to experiment with different combinations of people or different types of defenses or things that you change from the last season. It gives you a chance to experiment to see how well they’re going to work before it really counts,” she said.

In addition to playing three games, the Hawkeyes are also allowed to practice 10 times before the trip, something which Solverson and Bluder believe will help greatly during the regular season.

“It’s going to be a learning experience as much as it’s going to be fun. We’re going to have to learn to play with each other. There’s going to be new aspects of the team that we’re all going to have to learn to deal with, and I think that’s going to be a great experience for all of us,” Solverson said.

“Really the winning and losing isn’t that big a deal. It’s mostly that you get to have the 10 days of practice leading up to the tour where you can really spend time working with your team when not many others around the country are getting to work with their team, so that’s a real advantage,” said Bluder.

Three Hawkeyes who sat out most of last season will also get a chance to mesh with the team. Solverson will return to action after missing the last two seasons with ACL injuries. Zoraa Quoie also missed most of last season with an ACL injury. Hamlin will suit up as a Hawkeye for the first time, something she is very eager for.

“I’m really excited. I feel like I haven’t played forever. It feels like I’ve come out of high school again,” Hamlin said.

Even though there will be a lot of fun had off the court, the competition on the court will be tough. However Emmert and the rest of the team believe they will be ready for the challenge.

“I haven’t heard a lot about them, other than they’re really good obviously,” she said. “We’re just going to have to go out and really play our hardest and have no fear. But I think it will be great for us to go against a team with that much experience and that much poise.”

written by Jennifer Bissell

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