Arrival date: Saturday, Dec. 26
Well, most of the team arrived on Saturday. Due to the snow and other wintry conditions that hit the US, many of the girls were delayed, with a few not arriving until the late hours of Sunday evening. Even head coach King, assistant coach Pyzik and trainer Rebecca Lowry had to trudge through the delays, making it to San Diego almost 12 hours after their anticipated arrival time. I felt fortunate in that aspect, as I had to connect at O’Hare (Chicago) from my podunk airport in Wisconsin. Now, O’Hare is notorious for delays, even on the brightest, sunniest day in the summer, and with a blizzard hitting the greater Chicagoland area, I was preparing for the worst. Fortunately I only endured a two-hour delay before I was on my way to sunny San Diego and warmer temps.
Sunday, Dec. 27
With a few of the girls lost in transit across the country, the executive decision was made to move the trip to La Jolla beach to Sunday. So we all piled in two 16-passenger vans and made the trek up I-5 toward the ocean.
As a tourist in a city, it’s usually safe to assume that when you have a tour guide/someone transporting you across the city they know where they are going. Well along the drive, the passengers in the second van (which included myself, Coach Mandy King, trainer Rebecca, play-by-play broadcaster Jeremy and the freshmen) learned that the driver in the lead van really didn’t know where he was going. Apparently if our driver hadn’t set him straight we would have ended up in L.A., which may have been a nice little detour, but not quite on the itinerary. Looks were passed around the van, but few words were spoken after that little fact was shared.
Well, we all ended up making it to La Jolla, but not quite where we needed to be. After our fearless navigator, assistant coach Abby Pyzik, got her hand on a map we learned that the point where we were dropped off was almost two miles away from the heart of La Jolla, the tide pools and most importantly the sea lions that everyone wanted to see. So Abby and Mandy turned around to rally the girls and get them on a shuttle to La Jolla, while Rebecca, Jeremy and I continued the hike (which was up a significant slope) toward our final destination.
Eventually everyone made it to La Jolla, and besides the wonderful shopping and food, the highlight for most was trekking to the ocean shores and getting to see the sea lion park. There is a small of the section saved for the sea lions to hang out, and those who visit are allowed to go down on the shore and be within feet of the animals. It’s a pretty unique experience, and even more fun watching the animals, which are so graceful in the water, try and maneuver on dry land.
After a couple hours we headed back to the hotel and eventually out for a great dinner on Fifth Street. I can’t begin to describe how great the proximity of the hotel was to the outstanding shopping and culture of the Gaslamp District in San Diego, and it was a fantastic experience to be able to take in the city just steps from where you lay your head at night.
Monday, December 28—Gameday
Monday was a huge day as the team prepared to take on Capital (OH), the 21st-ranked team in the country.
After a quick breakfast, scout and walk-through there was a little time to lounge before heading to the campus of Pt. Loma Nazarene, where the college division of the tournament was being played (there was also a D-I and Canadian men’s challenge going on at different universities in the greater San Diego area).
The views from the campus were breathtaking. PLN sits on the top of a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When you arrived on campus you took a little service road that followed the bluff, with great views of the surf and beach dwellers below. From the athletic facilities we saw, every single one had a great vantage of the ocean. We almost lost trainer Rebecca, as she was so taken by the athletic training facilities that she was trying to find any way she could stay behind and come across a new job at the university.
I also experienced a little entertainment, as the official scorekeeper for Pt. Loma gave me a dissertation on his love of Lexington, VMI, the city’s history and his hopes that we could find him a job at W&L. I told him we could switch spots, but that didn’t seem to go over too well, I don’t think he was ready to give up San Diego and beautiful weather for the currently ice-cold Lexington.
The game started out with a little bump, as we were supposed to be the home team and Capital the visitor, but since they played the day before and didn’t have their uniforms laundered, we ended up having to switch. But that would be the only setback, as the Generals cruised to a 58-48 victory, defeating a ranked team for only the second time in program history. It was an exciting game, and a great team effort to defeat one of the top teams in the country.
The Generals at Point Loma Nazarene
Everyone was excited after the win, and after staying to watch the first half of Simpson/Pt. Loma game, we headed to the bus and back to the hotel. A little damper had to be placed on the victory celebration, as we shared a bus with Capital to the hotel (also shared one on the way there). It was a bit awkward, but I ended up having a great hockey chat with the radio guy from Capital, which made my day even better because I found someone who appreciated hockey, which I often struggle with in Virginia.
That evening we all loaded onto the ferry to Coronado, catching some beautiful views of downtown San Diego from the water. While most stuck close to the ferry landing, a few brave souls made the trek across the island to the gorgeous Hotel Coronado and grabbed some ice cream from what I was told one of “the top-rated ice cream shops in the US”. A group of us went to a great restaurant, which also overlooked the harbor and downtown San Diego, and enjoyed some fresh and scrumptious seafood before catching the end of the Bears-Vikings football game (Go Bears!) and the last ferry off the island.
Tuesday, December 29
Finally, the day that we had all been waiting for arrived: our trip to the San Diego Zoo! Let me tell you, the excitement about the zoo trumped almost every other sightseeing thing we did in San Diego. It was the buzz at breakfast, and the anticipation continued to grow during a team meeting/practice afterward.
Early afternoon we all loaded on the bus and headed to the zoo. Everyone went in their separate directions after we arrived, but since there is so much to see and so little time, Mandy, Abby, Rebecca, Jeremy and I decided it was best to get on the double-decker bus that drives you around and gives the best overview/highlights of the zoo. So we boarded the Blitzen bus (all of the buses were named after one of Santa’s reindeer for the holidays) and took in as much as we could from the roof of our bus.
After the bus tour and a little snack, we set out to enjoy the last hour. Since nobody was decisive about what they wanted to see, we ended up trekking to the far corner of the zoo to visit the polar bears, my favorite animal at the San Diego zoo! That day they were a bit lethargic, but in my previous experiences seeing them, when they go after the snacks the trainers throw in the water (we learned romaine lettuce is one of their favorites) they are amazing creatures to watch. By the time we walked in a few circles and made our way to the zoo entrance, it was the end of our time, but a good day.
That evening may have been one of the best nights we had eating out in San Diego. The W&L alumni group in San Diego hosted an event for the team at a restaurant in the Gaslamp District, so we all made our way there.
The highlight may have been the hostess/organizer of the event. She was animated to say the least, and kept most of us chuckling all night. Highlights included her strong declaration of the second floor being for “W&L only”, calling Jeremy a parent/coach/reporter and her constant flattery of the SID department and our abilities to crank out game stories quickly. She will never be forgotten, and will bring a smile to the face of everyone in attendance with the mere mention of her name.
Another great moment was the way the team DEVOURED the food that was served. The restaurant put out appetizers first, but apparently the girls thought that was the only food they were getting and took it to the face, leaving little for everyone else in attendance. They were nice enough to put together a plate for the coaches from their remnants, but fortunately for everyone else the restaurant quickly put out a main course.
In all it was a great evening, there were plenty of smiles and laughs from everyone to provide a lifetime of memories.
Wednesday, December 30
It was the morning of the big championship game, and one of the last days to take-in the sights and sounds of San Diego.
The Holiday Bowl (Nebraska vs. Arizona) was going on that day, so Rebecca, Jeremy and I decided to head to Harbor Drive and take-in the bowl parade. As a former bandie I love a parade for the marching bands, and a few of the balloons and other entries in the parade were great to watch, another one of those great life experiences to take in because you don’t know when you’ll have an opportunity again. After that I went on my own to visit Seaport Village and grab a bite to eat with my cousin, which was great because I hadn’t seen her in years. After that I was back to the hotel for a little TV (cults and mail order brides on NatGeo…quality TV right?!) and chatting with Rebecca before heading to Pt. Loma for the game.
This was a day that many on the trip may want to put behind, with the game not quite going as hoped, but there was a positive as Becca Bolton was named to the all-tournament team for her efforts in the two games.
After the game the team headed out for one last dinner and night in the Gaslamp District and San Diego. We went to an amazing surf & turf restaurant and had one of the best meals while in the city. A few girls even went top-shelf with their dinner selections, ordering the whole lobster. Once those lobsters arrived, we learned that they were 3.5 pound monsters, and just a smidge over the dinner budget. After remorse and trying to donate money to the women’s basketball program to make up for their expensive taste, the girls took away another story that I’m sure won’t be forgotten anytime soon, and be an inside joke amongst the girls.
Then it was back to the hotel for packing and getting a little rest before the 4:30 am departure to the airport on New Year’s Eve on our trek back to Lexington.
In all, it was a wonderful trip for the girls, parents and staff that were able to make the trip. I believe that there was some persuasion going on to take part in a tournament in NYC next season…so maybe we’ll have tales from the Big Apple next year!