Last year, we had the best season in Georgetown history and made a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA’s. This year we have a target on our backs. Now, we are the team that people get up to play against. There are high expectations for this group and there’s a lot of pressure on us to be as successful as we were last year.
Preseason is where it all starts. Surviving the first week of nerves and fitness testing in Germantown, Maryland while being totally isolated from the outside world separates the boys from the men. We work mainly on small-sided games, trying to get used to the ball at our feet again. More importantly we start to get a feel for our new teammates, personalities and playing styles, but it can be frustrating as it takes time to learn to connect and play together as a team on the field.
Report day: My favorite… We just sign a bunch of NCAA forms, no one knows what we’re signing off on, nor do we listen to the man explaining every page in detail (but after four years, it finally sinks in). Next comes the fun…photos with the media guys. The freshman walk in, sweaty, nervous, no Georgetown gear yet… they feel so out of place and uncomfortable. I was once one of them… strutting in, repping my purple University of Bridgeport t-shirt (which I was later told to take off and never wear again). My personal favorite part of the day is the photo shoot. Everyone has to get up in front of the entire team and do three different poses with the ball. We try to do a serious pose but usually burst out laughing right as the picture is being taken. The photographer hates us for this… I always ask them to photo shop my sweaty armpits out which after four years, I’ve finally learned they cannot do. We have completely given up on trying to look good for these pictures because it never happens. Plus, when you’re dressed in a soccer uniform, cleats and everything, the concept of wearing your hair down and make up, just looks wrong. You’re supposed to look ugly and tough… at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
For this week off site, we use three vans to travel to and from the sports complex and meals. You have to stay in the same van all week and I always try to get in our assistant coach, Naomi’s, van. She’s quite strict when it comes to the music on the radio… nothing offensive to women, nothing with profanity of any kind; only a few rap songs are acceptable. So pretty much all of the music we listen to is off the table. Her dancing to classic rock and slow jams totally makes up for it. Seniors get shot gun or the first row of seats. It’s a different world up there. I certainly do not miss being one of the four sweaty freshmen to squeeze in the back seat. After one day, it smells like a dead animal back there… if we forget to crack the windows over night you end up either gagging or holding your breathe the entire ride. I love the vans…in the front seat, that is.
Back to preseason; this week we do all the fitness tests and play a lot of small sided game to try to get used to the ball at our feet again. The highlight of this year’s run tests occurred during the Manchester United fitness test. It is the first test on the first day of camp. These are 100 yard sprints with a recovery jog back to the start and the passing level is 21 sprints. On the 20th sprint one of our very talented freshmen, Daphne Corboz, vomited mid-sprint and on the recovery jog back… amazingly spewed it all to the side and didn’t get any on herself. We all cheered her on, pushed her to finish her last sprint. She finished the last level… it was very impressive. But that’s the last time she’ll have a bagel before a fitness test.
The last day of hell week at Germantown is a great day. We have all worked hard through the fitness tests and double days, and we are anxious to get back on campus to train on our own field. In the morning, we had one session where we opened it up and played 11 v 11. Suddenly when there’s so much space and so much time, we don’t know what to do with it. We started to get a feel for the new personalities which emerged in the bigger game. Finally my last week at Germantown is over… Knowing that this was my last preseason is bittersweet. I’m going to do everything I can to make this the best season yet and leave the program better than when I started.
There is a traffic circle at the entrance to the Germantown sports complex where we practice. It is tradition for the assistant coach, Naomi Meiburger, to drive a van of only seniors around the circle five times (one per year and one for good luck) on the last day of training at Germantown. Needless to say, we went wild in the van, screaming and yelling, blasting “Down on Me” by Jeremiah only because it is normally on Naomi’s “Do Not Play” list. We will never have to go back to that place for preseason. Memories of the beep test, double days, bloody blisters, vomiting, heat exhaustion will stay in Germantown, Maryland, the friendships and team bonding will remain with me always.
To break up the double days, one afternoon back on campus we had our team bonding session. Dave put together a scavenger hunt that dragged us all over D.C. with only $30 per team. We had to try to find everything from pictures with a President to the most exotic fish. We had four hours to take pictures of the 27 tasks he gave us, get the pictures developed and return to campus. One of the tasks was to take a picture with someone over the age of 65. My roommate Gabby (Miller) immediately asked Dave for a picture with him…they were disqualified. We were split into teams by region, my Northeast team struggled to find the energy to leave the Georgetown area but we completed all but three tasks and spent the $30 on five smoothies instead of a cab ride into downtown D.C. Food always comes first. Unfortunately we all lost to the “Snooki Selects,” the dirty, cheating New Jersey team.
Our exhibition match this year was against Maryland, the team we knocked out of the NCAA’s to advance to the Sweet 16 last year. They certainly had a chip on their shoulder and they showed it by leaving a piece of themselves in every tackle. They came out flying; they were fast, athletic, big girls. This is a typical Maryland team, they moved the ball well and we couldn’t quite defend at the pace they played at. We lost 3-0 which was disappointing and we knew we had work to do after that. Now we have a week before our first real game and it was time to pick up the pace at practice. I want more than anything to have a great last season and not be the team that got lucky one time making it to the elite eight. We have a talented group this year and I know we have the potential to play with the best of them.