July 24, 2007
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner is enjoying her first stint with a USA Basketball team this summer, playing for the U.S. U19 World Championship Team. The Americans recently won a three-game exhibition tournament in the Canary Islands, and now are en route to Bratislava, Slovakia, to begin play in the U19 World Championship on Thursday vs. Ivory Coast. Click on the following links for recaps and box scores of those three exhibition victories over Australia, Brazil and Spain, then read on as Lech gives us an inside look at life on the road representing her country.)
Thursday, July 19th
Hey Irish fans … so it’s Thursday July 19th and I am still on a plane!!!!!!!!!!!! We have had a very difficult time with our travels. We were supposed to leave D.C. Tuesday at 5:18 p.m. We boarded the plane and everything was good to go. After sitting there for a while, they told us we would be missing our departure time due to some communication problems. Apparently, a phone was not working or something like that. Then, after sitting on the HOT plane for two hours, we had to get off and wait back in the airport. They had 20 maintenance men on the plane trying to fix it. By 9:30, they told us they fixed the first problem but discovered another one!! We were worried we would not even get to take off that night. Finally after 5 hours of waiting, we got to re-board the plane and take off for our 7-hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. We got there just fine and even had a plane waiting for us for our connection flight to Madrid. Everything seemed to be flowing smoothly until we arrived in Madrid. There was no flight for us and we had to stay the night there instead of continuing on to the Canary Islands 🙁
It would not have been a big deal, but none of us had our bags — ergo, no fresh clothes, shower stuff, or toothbrushes!!! Thankfully, the front desk at our hotel had some extra toothbrushes we could have. The hotel was pretty nice and, of course, we had a great time being in Spain. The language barrier was a bit of a problem for us at first, but as we got more comfortable, we were fine. I ended up leaving the airport ordering all of my food (or should I say la comida) in Spanish because that was the only way you could eat. Thank you St. Joseph’s High School for those three amazing years of Spanish — ha!! The food was also a different experience … not the Spanish food we were expecting, to say the least. However, if you don’t like it, you don’t eat, and that is definitely not how I roll! So basically I have been in the same clothes since Tuesday, I’m still on a plane right now, we have a game in a few hours against Australia and I’m having a blast!!!
I guess I should write a little bit about training camp in D.C. since I have so much time. We arrived July 12th and had a practice, then Friday and Saturday were two-a-days, and they made cuts Sunday morning. After we found out if we made it, we went to practice and then to the WNBA All-Star Game down at the Verizon Center (where the Mystics play). We also did some tours and got to see all of the cool sites like the Lincoln Memorial, White House, Washington Monument, WWII dedication site, the Holocaust Museum, the Vietnam War Memorial, and many, many more. It was so much fun to be in the city! My parents were there from Friday to Sunday, so I had dinner with them Saturday night, which is always nice. Tuesday was the last practice and we left for the airport as soon as it was over to begin our troubles. Oh the joys of traveling………
After finally arriving in Santa Cruz and getting our things situated, it was time to play. Our game was at 6 p.m. against Australia. You could definitely tell we were not all there. We had 32 turnovers and made a lot of mistakes. We barely ended up pulling out the win with a down-to-the-wire finish and a final score of 64-62 USA!!! It was good to finally get that first game under our belt. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do and a long way to come if we want to win the gold medal, but it was just important for us to get a victory after all of the adversity we faced trying to get here.
Friday July 20th
Another day on the Canary Islands… We woke up and ate another interesting breakfast, and then went to our shoot-around. We had a game at 6 against Brazil. We played a lot better than the night before and ended up winning 90-75. We were up by as many as 28 I think, but let the lead slip in the end because we were becoming content and did not continue to play our game. You can tell that our chemistry is getting better everyday and we definitely played more team ball against Brazil then we did against Australia. After the game, we came back to eat dinner and then spent the night fighting over the community computer in the lobby of our hotel. It’s so frustrating not having contact with anyone. My phone card will not work, and even though I brought my laptop, I have some weird program that will not let me pick up the wireless signal, and there’s one computer that everyone in the hotel wants to use at the same time. Needless to say, I have not talked to my parents at all, let alone other family or friends. It’s not a big deal — it is just annoying because we feel so stranded … spoiled Americans at our finest :). Other than that there is not a whole lot to tell you about. I’m still having a blast and am excited for tomorrow because we get to go to the beach. Wooohoooo!!!!
Lechlitner (far right, front row) and the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team accept the championship trophy after last week’s tournament win in the Canary Islands.
Saturday July 21st
Today started a little earlier than normal. Our game was at noon instead of six at night so we didn’t have to sit around the boring hotel all day. We played Spain who was also 2-0 in the championship game of the tourney. They are a very good team and played us well. We went into the locker room down two. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked. It’s frustrating because this team is so capable of doing really big things, but it’s like we are content with small leads and small victories when we should be killing teams. We played sloppy once again and had 29 turnovers. Thankfully, we picked up our defense and overall intensity in the second half and managed to get a 15-point lead. We ended up winning by 9, which was not that great, but we were just happy to walk away with first place. I feel like I played pretty well.
After the game, we came back to the hotel to shower and eat lunch and then we headed straight for the black sand beach!!!!! It was sooo nice! The beaches here get really big waves, so me and a few of the girls went for a swim. The waves absolutely annihilated us. We would go out until we couldn’t touch and float around for a bit until we saw a huge wave coming. Then we would swim as fast as we could and ride the wave into shore. Actually, it was more like the wave would throw us under water and then spit us up onto the shore. Thankfully, no one got hurt. It was sooooo much fun, and it was nice to get away from basketball for a few hours. After the beach, we walked around the city for a bit, and then went back to the hotel to shower for dinner. We FINALLY got to eat some good food! We went to a pizza place around the corner and had some amazing food. I think they ended up ordering us 7 pizzas in all. That’s 56 slices for 12 girls and we ate every last one of them!!! It was obvious that we were very thankful for some familiar food. After dinner, I hung out with a few of the girls around the city to get some good bonding in before bed. All in all, today was a blast 🙂
Sunday July 22nd
Today started out a little rough. We had practice in the morning and about halfway through, I had to stop because my groin was bothering me. I tweaked it in the game last night and thought it would be okay, but it kept getting worse as practice went on, so I had to sit out. It’s not a big deal and we have tomorrow off so I will be able to rest it. After practice, we gathered up our things and left the beautiful Canary Islands 🙁 We arrived in Madrid around 9 and hit a pot of gold at the airport. WE FINALLY FOUND A MCDONALDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hate that place when I’m at home, but when your in Spain, McDonald’s is like a buried treasure. Our team went crazy and ate everything on the menu. I had a McPollo and some papas fritas — ha ha! Esta mucho delicioso!!!! After dinner, we came back to our hotel, which is extremely nice. My luck continued because they have wireless internet and I finally have contact with the world!!! I was so happy it wasn’t even funny. Anyway, I better call it a night because it’s real late and we have to leave at 5:30 tomorrow morning to catch our plane to Vienna for a day of sightseeing before we move on to Slovakia. Good night!!