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Irish Abroad In France: Avignon

June 17, 2016

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Editor’s Note: From June 3-13, 2016, the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team traveled to France and Monaco for its foreign tour. Four Irish student-athletes have submitted blogs detailing the trip from Monaco to Nice to Avignon to Paris. The second entry by junior goalkeeper Lexi Nicholas details the team’s stay in Avignon. To read the first account of the team’s visit to Monaco and Nice by Taylor Klawunder, click here.

By Lexi Nicholas ’18 (featuring Kaleigh Olmsted ’17)

Tuesday morning began with a light training session in Monaco and a breakfast before our three-hour-long bus ride to Avignon. The day seemed to fly by as we spent most of it in a bus, looking out at the towns and chateaus that spotted the rolling green hills. Or at least that is what I was told since I was passed out and drooling for the 2 hours 59 minutes of the ride. Once we arrived in Avignon, the first thing we noticed was the huge wall. Most of the city is encircled by a fortress of 800-year-old stone ramparts, complete with towers and embrasures (or things that archers shoot arrows from).

After checking into our hotel, we set out towards the city’s main attraction: the Palais des Papes or the Papal Palace. It only took Meghan Doyle and Kaleigh Olmsted 15 minutes to realize that it was the Pope who once lived there, not a king and queen (possibly with their daughter Rapunzel).

At dinner, we were showered with periodic spurts of thin water vapor that not-so-lightly misted us from the umbrellas. It was, I must say, rather refreshing, especially after I got over the initial surprise water attack. We started with French onion soup, then were served probably the best salmon I’ve ever had in my entire life, followed by an unspecified pastry for dessert. During the meal, Chalk (aka Ann Marie Niro) made the delightful comment that, “There seems to be a much older generation living in Avignon.” We have decided that Avignon is the Florida of France.

Outdoor view of the Papal Palace in Avignon.

Outdoor view of the Papal Palace in Avignon.

After getting a second dessert – obviously gelato – the majority of the team ran home in the rain, ever so gracefully, as you all know we are. When we returned to the hotel, we all returned to our respective rooms and began collectively watching the only movie on TV that happened to be in English, The Call starring Halle Berry. If you think that inhibited us from interacting and talking about the movie, you would be wrong. The intense ending generated a series of freaked-out messages amongst the team. It’s a really good thing that Sabrina Flores [who is training with the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team] wasn’t here to watch this scary movie with us, because the nightmares would have been endless. Although, we all did miss you, Sab!

The next morning we got to sleep in for the first time this trip, if you can even call it that since we had to eat breakfast by 10 a.m. The next few hours were free time, so most of us headed to the indoor market. Unfortunately, Kaleigh and Ginny McGowan got lost on the way and the only interesting part about that experience was Kaleigh got jabbed in the leg by the finger of a man sitting on a street corner. We all then returned to the hotel, rested until pre-game meal, did some guided meditation with our awesome tour guide, Casey, then headed out to the game against a local club team from Avignon.

Game Recap: Jennifer Westendorf got a talking to by the referee, no surprise there. Mariel Adams and Natalie Ward fouled nothing short of 100 times. Kaitlin Klawunder got flipped twice – again, no surprise there. We’re still not sure how she manages to be so athletic yet so un-athletic all at the same time. Jen got the first goal and Karin Muya got the next two, a great start for her first game back since her injury. By the second period [we played three 30-minute periods], things picked up and we got our rhythm back, and I think we are all pretty excited for next season after that 3-0 win.

Teammates congratulate Karin Muya on her first goal that gave the Irish a 2-0 lead over Avignon. It was the first goal for Muya, who returned to game action for the first time since suffering an injury nine months ago.

Teammates congratulate Karin Muya on her first goal that gave the Irish a 2-0 lead over Avignon. It was the first goal for Muya, who returned to game action for the first time since suffering an injury nine months ago.

Following the win, we had what can only be described as a victorious dance party/badly-sung karaoke mash-up for the entire ride back. [Thirty. Whole. Minutes. This is truly why I love my team]. The sing-along included Dancing Queen featuring [head coach] Theresa [Romagnolo] and our own version of Stacy’s Mom dedicated to assistant coach Diego Bocanegra’s wife, Kellie. Dance lessons for the entire team wouldn’t be the worst thing to ever happen to us. Chalk might need a 1-on-1 session, gotta love her. The short battery life of Katie Uhler’s speakers didn’t stop the ridiculous celebration, as we continued to belt out random lyrics to any song we knew, despite the lack of music.

After our return to the hotel, we showered and got food and/or gelato (again). Pretty soon after, we all headed off to bed as we were exhausted from the day’s events. Today [Thursday, June 9], we are taking a train to Paris where we will spend our last few glorious days in France and reunite with our long-lost coach Dawn-daluh [Mrs. Dawn Siergiej, who was working on the coaching staff with the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team in England].

I would like to thank Kale [Kaleigh] for helping me create this amazing piece of literature. I couldn’t have done this without her sarcastic humor and wit.

Au revoir from train seats 45 and 46!

– Lexi and Kale