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A Player’s Perspective: Lake Como and Milan

May 29, 2013, 11:44 PM EDT

Me (left) and Andrea McHugh

Ciao from Milan!

Today we woke up around 8:30 am and had a quick breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, fruit and pastries at the hotel then loaded up on the bus and left for the day to Lake Como. Lake Como, Lago di Como as it is called in Italian, is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe and we were all very excited to see and experience it. I included a few fun facts about Lake Como that you might not know:

– Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy

– The deepest point is roughly 410 meters

– It is shaped like an inverted “Y”, which creates an ample amount of shoreline that is dotted with restaurants and villas.

– Historically it has been a popular vacation spot for Europe’s royalty and elite, as well as celebrities like George Clooney who has a house on Lake Como.

– Lake Como is about 40 km north of Milan and close to Switzerland and you can actually see Switzerland from some of the peaks surrounding the lake.

– The Rockefeller fountain at the Bronx Zoo in New York City was once in the main square in Como! The fountain was purchased by William Rockefeller in 1902 for about 600 dollars and invested 25,000 dollars to bring it to New York City!

The drive was very pretty and surrounded by greenery, but we were all a little skeptical as we headed towards mountains with dark grey storm clouds hovering above. The drive was about 40 minutes north and we rounded one corner on the mountain road and finally caught a glimpse of the beautiful Lake and city of Como below. The city was much larger than I realized and it was full of restaurants, shops, small hotels and villas dotting the hillsides overlooking the lakes.

The bus dropped us off near the town center, and only a few steps away from the Lake. As it was chilly and we weren’t quite ready to head straight for the water, a few of us meandered our way around the lake towards the funicular that takes you the top of the mountain. Five Euro and about 10 minutes later, it was warm and sunny as we were standing on top of the mountain with breathtaking views of the lake and villas below. Once you are at the top of the mountain, there are several different points of interest you can walk or hike to including a few waterfalls, a church and a lighthouse. A couple of us walked up to the lighthouse, which was beautiful and once again provides incredible 360-degree views of lake and the surrounding hillsides and towns.

Once we were done exploring, we headed back down on the funicular to the lake and looked for a spot to grab lunch. Jeni Houser and I settled on a nice café right on the lake with lots of outdoor seating. Our lunch was delicious and we enjoyed caprese salad, pizza, lemonade and a specialty rotolo pizza that was essentially a huge pizza that was rolled up and also one of the best things I have ever tasted. After lunch the team met back near the docks where we were schedule for a dreaded team “ice bath” in the lake. Fortunately it was starting to get a little stormier and we decided to forego the dip in the frigid waters for some more last minute shopping. Everyone loved the shops in Como and it provides us with another opportunity to get some unique gifts for family and friends. While walking through the city streets, I was impressed by how quaint and clean the streets were, and was especially in awe at the Duomo, which is the cathedral in the middle of the city. After a last minute gelato, we hopped on the bus back to Milan to prepare for our second match against the Italian Junior National team.

After arriving back at the hotel, most of us took a quick nap, then walked over to the facility for our second match against the Italian team and our last match of the trip. Before our game we did a quick serve and pass as our serve receive was pretty shaky the day before, and I definitely think it helped improve our passing in today’s match. We won the first match, 25-21, and had a lot of momentum going into the second game. Unfortunately we dropped the next three with scores of 21-25, 17-25 and a very close fourth set, 24-26. We were very capable of beating this team and were up 24-20 in the fourth set and only one point away from forcing a fifth game when we had trouble closing the match. Despite the loss, Andrea McHugh had a stellar game, with 25 digs and very steady passing throughout the match.

Although we were disappointed with the match, our overall play has improved tremendously with each game, and the team communication and chemistry has vastly improved since the beginning of our trip. Each team we have faced has been very talented, and we have battled and competed at a high level, forcing every match to four or five games. Beating or being close and capable of beating these skilled teams has instilled a sense of confidence in our team, and I am really excited to see what we are capable of doing. I’m looking forward to fall and our inaugural season in the ACC!

Following the match we had a good dinner of bread, risotto and salad in the Italian training center. Now we are back in the hotel packing our bags, getting ready for bed, setting our alarms for an early flight home and reminiscing on the great memories we made and the unforgettable experiences we have had on this trip.

Sammie

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