ITALY TOUR: Looking Back Recapping a trip of a lifetime | University of Chicago Women's Soccer, Aug. 18-29

The University of Chicago women's soccer team took its sixth foreign trip, a 10-day excursion in Italy that featured stops in Florence, Rome, Vatican City, Cinque Terre, Capri & more, plus three friendly matches. Here are some final thoughts from Maroons' players about the impact the experience had on them.

By Casey Jervier

Today was the day we left Italy.

The day started at 6:30 AM, as I blearily opened my eyes as sound of an alarm filled the room. Sitch had told us the night before that we were going to be going on an early morning run, so I had slept in some athletic clothes to make he morning run smoother. I rolled out of bed, freshened up, laced up my running shoes, and stepped out the door with my two roommates, Dri and Ruthie. The team gathered in the lobby, and we all made our way out into the parking lot with Sitch leading the way. Once we confirmed that everyone was accounted for, Sitch sprinted off, and we followed close behind.

Even though I can’t call myself a fan of early morning runs, it gave me a chance to be alone with my thoughts. Once I settled into a rhythm with the group I was able to look around and watch my surroundings pass by. I admired the view of the Vatican a few miles away, and reflected on the amazing opportunity we had had the day before to walk around Vatican City.

Memories of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel flashed in my mind. A passing Italian driver honked his horn and shouted “Ciao” as our group of 30 ran past, and I was reminded of the busy streets of Florence and Rome, and all the times where we laughed and commented on the tiny European cars.

“Casey! Your shoelaces!”, Coach yelled behind me, and I became aware of the fact that my shoelaces had come undone.

“I don’t want to get left behind!” I yelled back, and I continued jogging.

“Casey. Stop and get your shoelaces. I don’t want you breaking your ankle.” Coach insisted, and I slowly came to a stop. I quickly got my laces in order, and smiled to myself when I thought about how even in small moments like this, Coach didn’t let me get left behind. We continued on to catch up with the group, and we ran until we came upon a small clearing. We circled up and chatted amongst ourself as we stretched, and enjoyed the cool breeze under the early morning Italian sun. I looked around at our smiling happy faces, and I couldn’t help but feel a pang in my heart, wishing I could make these moments in Italy last a few days longer. But it was time to go home, and I really did miss my own bed if I was honest with myself. Once we had gotten a final team picture together, we started on our journey back to the hotel.

The rest of the morning passed by quickly, a rush of getting showered, getting breakfast, getting our final bags packed, and before I knew it, we were piling onto the bus to travel to the airport. I made my way down the aisle to the back of the bus, my favorite seat. The bus came to a rumbling start, and began to pull away from the hotel front. I smiled, plugged in my earbuds and rested my head on the window.

Even though I was sad it was over, Italy truly had been the best 10 days of my life. We bonded as a team, saw some beautiful sights, and I had felt myself coming more and more out of my shell, sharing conversations with teammates I hadn’t been that close to. What a beautiful way to start the season.

By Hanna Watkins

What a wonderful trip! As we head back to Chicago to continue our preseason, we are filled with gratitude and excitement.

Grateful for the memories we made in Italy as a team - whether that be exploring the charming villages of Cinque Terre, swimming in the crystal clear waters of Capri or attempting to pickpocket Marlon for the umpteenth time (and for the record it must be noted that our most advanced pickpockets managed to get his passport). We are thankful for so many things.... Thank gosh Sydney and crew managed to make it back in time after renting a personal boat to tour Cinque Terre and Lydia did not in fact throw away her passport and phone in a donut bag in the airport and Katie J is not actually a bizarre human being who collects sticks and cries hysterically when they break. Truly GRATEFUL! And on top of all these moments, we got to train in beautiful settings (shoutout to Montecatini and Sitch’s morning uphill sprints) against technical Italian teams that gave us a real run for our money at times. But in all seriousness, Italy provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to begin putting together the foundation for a winning, culturally sound, soccer team.

Excited for what this season holds, with particular highlights of our freshmen and coaches. We could not be more happy to welcome 6 freshmen to the team: Skye, MK, Annie, Lydia, Bella and Ruthie. While leaving home for college and flying off to a foreign country with strangers for 10 days may seem like child’s play, our new teammates brought an unprecedented level of enthusiasm to every practice, scrimmage and social outing. We cannot wait to see how they continue to positively impact our team on and off the field. And our coaches put together an unforgettable preseason that somehow managed to tastefully combine soccer, fitness, tourism and vacation all into one. We cannot wait to continue to build our culture and soccer under their leadership.

So to our coaches, families, friends, donors and everyone else who helped turn this dream trip into a reality, thank you for all your support and generosity. We could not have asked for a more extraordinary start to the season! SFL, LFG and Bangerz of course.

By Charlotte Waechter

It’s crazy to believe that this morning we packed our bags for the final time, loaded up the bus, and headed to the airport.

Our 10 days in Italy have come to an end, and I’m sure we’d all describe the feeling as bittersweet. Gone are the stunning Tuscan views, the intricate architecture, and the addictive 2-gelato-a-day tradition, but returning to Chicago means the start of our season. And after playing great soccer against some pretty technical Italian teams, we can’t wait to see how we’ll match up against the teams back home.

In a nutshell, traveling to Italy was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For the first years, it was a chance to bond with the team. For many, it was the first time out of the US, arguably to one of the most historic, most beautiful countries in the world. And for everyone, it was “gelato and adventure,” made even better being surrounded by our 31 best friends.

We learned to go with the flow — when half of the team didn’t make it onto our train at Cinque Terre, we didn’t stress. We figured out how to adapt — even after long days of walking, we learned to flip a switch during practice. And finally, Italy has honed our abilities to look at things with different perspectives. From the highly-technical game to the laid-back lifestyle, there’s always more than one “right” way to do something, and this will be especially important as we go forward in our season.

Thank you again to all of our generous donors who allowed us the opportunity to play soccer and tour Italy. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that it was without a doubt the best preseason possible and that we’ll always remember the memories we made trying to pickpocket each other, laughing at the failed attempts of many of us still pronouncing “grazie” incorrectly, and trying to taste every single gelato flavor in existence (pine cone gelato was without a doubt the worst flavor we encountered). We’re still a ways away though, so we’ll be back. A la prossima.

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