June 4, 2014
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -
After a couple days off we had a team practice in Helsinki on Wednesday and left for Slovenia really early the next morning. We flew to Frankfurt, Germany and to Zagred, Croatia, and then we drove two hours to Podcetrtek. That city was literally in the middle of nowhere! We stayed in a really nice spa hotel. However, after couple hours we realized that it was basically a physical therapy place for older people. I don't think there was anyone there under the age of 60 (except for us). The gym was almost attached to the hotel so we were able to walk to our practices and games.
After arriving to Podcetrtek we had lunch and a late practice. We focused a lot on our team's stuff since we knew that we were playing against Slovenia the next day. Practice went well and we had dinner at a really nice restaurant attached to the hotel. Everyone was really tired after a long day of traveling and practice, so after the dinner everyone pretty much went back to their rooms and got some rest. The next morning we had a shoot-around and our game was supposed to start at 6 p.m.
Unfortunately, the basketball association of Slovenia forgot to get some referees for the game so we started the game 45 minutes late and with only two refs. We warmed up for almost two hours and that made the whole team a bit tired considering that we just had a long day of travel. We started the game well and the score was close the whole way, but Slovenia was better in the end and came away with a two point win. It's frustrating when we are so close but end up losing every time. This game was a lot better compared to the games we had against Estonia the previous weekend. The loss was disappointing but we are trying to look past that and see where we are making progress.
We had a 12 p.m. practice on Saturday and the rest of the day off. Our staff had organized a team activity later that night. A member of the men's Finnish National Team, Sasu Salin, plays in Slovenia and his team was in the Slovenian finals. The winner would capture the Slovenian Championship. It was an away game, which meant a tough crowd and bad refs. They played really well and had a 10 point lead and it looked like they were for sure going to win the game. Unfortunately, a couple of their best players got five fouls and Sasu's team ended up losing by couple points. The game was really intense and fun to watch and Sasu's team deserved to win, but that's how the game of basketball goes. You win some and you lose some. After the game we drove back to the hotel and had some dinner. It was a really fun team-bonding day and I feel like the whole team got closer.
On Sunday we had a shoot-around in the morning and a game later that night. Everyone was joking if we were actually going to have three referees this time and we did. The game started on time and both teams were fighting. I am so proud of my team. We were down by ten points three times during the game and even though we lost (again) we never gave up. This team reminds me of my team at Providence. We may not have had necessarily the best start for our season but we are not giving up. It is the Finnish determination that we call "sisu" that is pushing us on the basketball court. Losing is always disappointing but I am hopeful and I know that we can do better.
After the game we had a team dinner and two of my teammates reached 50 and 150 national team games (caps) during their career so we had a little celebration for them. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to play with such experienced players. I feel like there is so much that I can learn from them on and off the court.
We left Slovenia the next morning by bus back to Zagreb and then flew to Helsinki through Munich. It felt good to see my mom and sister with our two dogs at the airport. I was exhausted and these two day off are much needed. We start again this Wednesday (June 4) and we practice until Saturday. We play against Ukraine on Sunday and Tuesday in Finland. Usually the qualification games are played at home and away but because of the situation in Ukraine we will play both games in Helsinki. I can't wait for the "real" games to start!
Sorry for such a long blog entry, but for those of you that have taken the time to read the whole entry - thank you, it means a lot to me.