Irish In Australia

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The Notre Dame softball team (@NDsoftball) recently returned to campus after spending fall break in Australia. Several players and staff members kept a journal of their encounters in the 'Land Down Under' for Irish UNDerground throughout the excursion ...

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Sunday, Oct. 16 - Freshman Cassidy Whidden

G'day mates!

After countless hours on an airplane, the team has made it to the Land Down Under.

However, we were only in Australia for a matter of minutes before Australian officials quarantined us.

The customs officials suspected us of trying to sneak "foreign" substances into the country through the soles of our shoes, but what really happened is that multiple girls had clay from Melissa Cook Stadium on their cleats ... therefore our cleats had to be sanitized of this "foreign" substance.

Despite being quarantined for a while, this did not stop our excitement and from the airport we made our way to Coogee Beach where the sunshine, the beach and an Australian barbecue welcomed us.

Many of the girls joked that we would be eating kangaroo for lunch, but it wasn't a joke. The barbecue had a variety of chicken, sausage and kangaroo meats along with various salads and rolls. While some of the girls enjoyed the 'roo meat, the majority of us thought it was a little bit too "gamely".

One must have an acquired taste for kangaroo meat; otherwise you might just spoil your entire meal.

Along with learning what kangaroo meat tastes like, the team also learned how to throw a rugby ball and enjoyed a pick-up game with some wallabies "natives". For several hours, we enjoyed the sunshine and conversations with our new Australian friends. Our Australian friends taught us more than how to throw a rugby ball, the also informed us that certain American words do not translate into the same word down here.

For instance, a fanny pack is not a fashionable waist bag but rather an inappropriate body part. It's a learning experience down here!

I think I can speak for the whole team and say that jet lag has finally caught up to us, so this is all for now from down under! We miss everyone back home and we love you all!

Cheers!

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Monday, Oct. 17 - Sophomore Monica Torres

I started the day off by waking up at 4:45 am. Jet lag is a terrible thing.

We all had a tasty breakfast in the hotel. My favorite part was the bacon and the the coffee machine that said "Preparing your drink ... " while it filled your cup.

We left at 9:30 to go to downtown Sydney. The bus dropped us off on the opposite side of Sydney from the bridge so we got to walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge and see a great view of the Opera House and the city.

It took forever to cross the bridge because we each had to take about 75 pictures: all possible angles of the Opera House, solo pictures, class pictures, big sis-little sis, awkward family photos, etc. I think our travel guides were getting a bit annoyed, but hey, we were excited!

We finally made it to the other side of the bridge and walked to the Opera House, where we proceeded to take about 75 more pictures each on the steps, with new variations such as jumping poses and a pyramid (quite impressive ... all the tourists were taking pictures of us instead of the Opera House).

It was surreal to see the Sydney Opera House with my own eyes. We were all surprised that it wasn't bigger, because it always seems so massive on television and in photos, but it was still really amazing.

After that we walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens where Emilee Koerner randomly ran into her best friend's grandparents! It is a small world after all.

The gardens were beautiful and ran right along the water, so the view of the bridge and the Opera House was amazing. We took a thousand more pictures, which turned out nicely because the sun came out after an overcast morning.

Our team says and does some pretty interesting things, so I've been collecting our most memorable quotes. Today's gem ...

Chloe: "Koalas can't swim!" ... Me: "They can if you push them over the edge."

The bus driver then took us through Sydney to see all the millionaires' houses, which were gorgeous. The architecture, as Laura Winter pointed out, was varied and "fantastic!" Laura claims she's going to live there one day so I guess she better start saving up; I think our driver said the houses were from five to 50 million dollars.

Kelsey Thornton asked the question we were all thinking, "Laura, isn't it too sunny for you here?"

We had some delicious fish and chips and calamari rings by the water at a place called Doyle's. We got to walk up the sandstone cliffs for a beautiful view of the coast, and we took several hundred more pictures, many of which were illegal because we climbed where we weren't supposed to.

Then we took the bus to Sydney University, or as our bus driver called it, "Sydney Uni." I really liked the campus; the buildings were all red brick and there were lots of trees and students were hanging out while enjoying the weather.

There was also a great statue of Gilgamesh, who we all know was the king of Assyria.

We tried to practice on a baseball field that had been converted to a cricket field, but didn't accomplish much because the groundskeeper got very angry with us for ruining his field with our cleats.

Jackie Bowe made a particularly impressive rut in the field while she was pitching - she pretty much dug a hole back home plate to the other side of the world. Kris Ganeff did a great impression of the groundsman: "Who's running this circus?!?"

After a quick change at the hotel we went back downtown for a sunset cruise which gave us another great view of the bridge and Opera House as well as some more amazing waterfront mansions, one of which was the Prime Minister's. The cruise had a playlist of great romantic songs which set the mood for some very silly photos. I'm pretty sure the whole cruise, including the captain, was entertained by our antics, particularly "planking" and imitating the "Titanic" movie scene where Rose stands at the front rail and pretends she's flying.

After the cruise we split up for dinner and did some shopping. I went to a cute Italian restaurant a few teammates. The pizza was delicious; we killed two pies in about five minutes.

After dinner we wandered around and bought some souvenirs, then headed back to the hotel. That's pretty much all for now, especially since I'm running out of time at this internet cafe! Guess I'll rest up for the Bridge Climb tomorrow.

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Wednesday, Oct. 19 - Junior Brittany O'Donnell

Going to the beach and shopping: a Jersey girl's two favorite things ... and that is exactly what I did today.

After breakfast this morning I put my bathing suit on and hit the beach with the team. We were all excited to take advantage of the sunshine and get an Australian sun-kissed glow. The beach we went to was Manly Beach.

Aside from catching some rays, the best part of the beach was looking out at the clear blue ocean. The water was a bit cold for me, but a few girls were brave enough to run in and out for a quick dip.

After spending a good amount of time on the beach, I decided it was time to do what I do best, which is shopping of course. A group of us crossed the street and began to shop around. My favorite shopping street was one that was closed off to cars, so I could walk from store to store without having to check for cars (this was a bonus especially since the cars drive on the wrong - left - side of the road here and that is a little confusing).

There were so many shops ranging from surf shops to souvenir shops to girly shops (my favorite!). Shopping for a while made us hungry and we went to Ground Zero Cafe for a quick lunch. The team returned to the bus and we went to downtown Sydney for - surprise! - more shopping. While walking down the sidewalk passing Prada, Gucci and Coach, I felt like I was walking the streets of New York City.

My favorite shopping experience was walking through the Queen Victoria Building. This building is a huge high-end mall with a large variety of shops.

After doing more souvenir shopping we returned tot he hotel to freshen up for dinner. We went to the Noodle Market for dinner. This market was set up in a park and had a variety of tents set up with all kinds of food. I got sushi and it was delicious.

After dinner, I completed the night by getting ice cream. Now at the hotel, we are preparing to leave for Gold Coast tomorrow. I am looking forward to going to the wildlife park and seeing the koalas and kangaroos.

This trip "Down Under" is one I will never forget! Go Irish!

One last note: I don't think Australia was ready to handle my bows!

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Saturday, Oct. 22 - Senior Kasey O'Connor

G'day!

Yesterday, we made the short flight from New South Wales to Queensland (or as the locals call it "Queeny"). First stop was the zoo, which was nuts! I got to take a picture with a koala, which is always a sign of a good day. Second, I got to feed a kangaroo food out of the palm of my hand - soooo awesome! The worst animal in the place was the cockatoo. It was screaming at us. But the good news is that I discovered that I do a great cockatoo impression.

Today, we started off doing a team building exercise with an Australian couple named Bo and Liz. Bo kind of looked like a slightly older version of a Ken doll, which is never a bad thing to look at. We played a highly competitive game of flags on the beach as part of our exercise and naturally one of the seniors - Alexa Maldonado - won.

It was an interesting and beneficial experience for our team. The next activity of the day was a surfing lesson, which was also awesome. You may think the biggest highlight from this event would be something like catching a wave on my own, but that would be wrong. The highlight of the day for me was when Amy and I shared a wave and both got up only to result in me wiping out and also taking Amy down as well. It was a crazy wipeout!

After surfing we went straight to our game where we played the Queensland Heat. They were some really solid competition and not to mention some really nice girls. Hit of the game went to Dani Miller - a two-run bomb in the second inning.

The moment of the game went to Chloe Saganowich, as she almost got taken out when a bird dropped a fish only a couple of feet away from her while she was playing shortstop. Bet you'd never thought that could happen at a softball game!

The end result was a Irish victory, which was a nice cap to our undefeated fall season! We celebrated the victory with one of the greatest Notre Dame softball traditions - spotlight (karaoke on the bus). Our new friend from Anthony Travel, Isaac, serenaded us with some Macy Grey and Jackie Bowe rounded out the show with another epic performance. We tried to get our tour guide, Michael, to perform ... but he refused. So we chanted his name the entire ride home instead.

Can't believe our trip is almost over. It has definitely been one to remember!

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Saturday, Oct. 22 - Senior Manager Matt Brown

Today was our free day and at 8:30 a.m. with nowhere to be, I knew today was going to be relaxing. Although the morning was a bit overcast and dreary, the sun quickly came out to make it a quality beach day in Surfers Paradise.

After a filling breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to explore the surrounding area. Some of us wanted to spend the afternoon at the beach, but I was looking forward to a plate of fish and chips from a local cafe. I think I ate fish and chips about five times during our time in Australia, and it was delicious every time.

We rounded off the afternoon by walking around the local shops. Most of the girls were excited to shop in the Australian stores and Brittany O'Donnell easily out-shopped everyone. When the evening rolled around, everyone was hungry and ready for our farewell dinner. Our Australian tour guide took us a place called Manhattan for an excellent meal. By the end of dinner we were all a little sad that the trip was over, but everyone knew what a great time we had there.

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Sunday, Oct. 23 - Assistant Coach Kris Ganeff

It is Sunday morning here in Australia and we are departing for the airport to head back to the good ol' United States. This trip has been an amazing experience. It was a combination of good people, good places and plenty of good times.

We all cannot thank everyone enough who contributed to our fundraising efforts to get to Australia.

On the long flight to Sydney last Friday we all talked about the things we were expecting to see and do, but nothing could have ever truly prepared us. The first time you take in the sigh of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Opera House, your breath is taken away by the true beauty.

The hospitality and laid-back nature of the Australians made everyone relax and enjoy what life had in store for us throughout this trip. And most of all, the time we spent together as a team was priceless.

Thank you Deanna Gumpf and the University of Notre Dame for giving this program a trip of a lifetime.

We are all excited to come home to Notre Dame and share our stories, pictures and laughter with all our loved ones. Leaving the beautiful sights that Australia had to offer was very hard, but seeing the Golden Dome reminds us all that we live and work in one of the world's most wonderful places.

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Monday, Oct. 24 - Assistant Coach Lizzy Lemire

We made it safely to Australia after a long 14-hour flight. I slept for the first six or seven hours and then watched two movies. I am telling you, Quantas is the way to travel to Australia. They kept feeding us non-stop and the entertainment on the plane is ridiculously good. I loaded my iPad with movies and music and didn't open it once because the personal televisions they had on the plane were awesome.

We landed and got a little delayed in customs because they had to take all of the girls cleats out of their bags and wash the dirt off of them. Apparently they are paranoid about bacteria or disease on the dirt we bring into the country. So there we were, waiting in customs while the Australian authorities were scrubbing the dirt off our cleats!

Straight from the airport we went to the beach and had a barbecue. Ate kangaroo meat. It tasted like steak with a gamely feeling. Not really something i want to make a regular habit of eating. My sister would kill me since she is a vegetarian and I am eating kangaroo ... one of the cutest animals ever.

After the barbecue our players managed to meet some Australians at the beach who taught us how to play rugby and footy, two games we don't see much of in the United States. We closed out the evening by watching the World Cup of Ruby semifinal between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies. The All Blacks won. While we all should have been rooting for the Wallabies, the All Blacks have the big adidas contract so we kind of sided with them.

There is a lovely park close to the hotel flanked by a rugby/cricket oval and a large bay with hundreds of sailboats. The tennis courts are all grass courts. There is also a cool cafe where you can order food and coffee and sit in the park outside.

One night we went to an outdoor food festival for dinner and it was awesome. There were thousands of people in the park sitting on the grass and enjoying the food - mostly Thai and Chinese because of the Asian influence in Sydney - and listening to music.

We walked almost all of Sydney on Monday. This entire walk was beautiful. Each city in the world has its own character, but I have to say that Sydney has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Every sight you are looking at seems breathtaking. Each day I ran from the hotel to the Sydney Opera House area. On my last day of running, I remembered to take every bit of it in because this might be the last time in my lifetime that I see one of the most beautiful sight lines in the world!

Tuesday was the big bridge climb. I had done this climb back in 1999 as a member of the Irish softball team when we traveled to Australia. However, they have made some enhancements since then. The bridge climb is an experience like none other in the world. Of all the bridges, I think the Sydney Harbour Bridge has to be one of the prettiest bridges out there.

Mitch was our very cute Australian tour guide and he provided us with lots of history on the climb to the top. Here is what I learned - the bridge took seven years to build and 16 lives were lost during is construction. They started building on both ends and met in the middle.

We climbed over 700 steps to get the top and another 700 steps to get back down. It takes about seven years to paint the bridge and it needs to be repainted every seven years, so they are pretty much always painting the bridge.

The man who started the idea of the bridge climb was married to his second wife and had a third mortgage when he launched the idea. He had exhausted all of his funds but gained it all back within 12 months of business. Today, 13 years later, he is a millionaire. What a great idea!

Tuesday night we played our first set of games against the New South Whales Open women's team. We played at the Blacktown Olympic Park, site of the 2000 Olympics.

The stadium staff hosted a pregame meal at the stadium for us that was wonderful. They barbecued food for us and we ate on picnic tables outside the park. The stadium was great and just as I remembered seeing it on television in 2000. It was very cool to play where our United States women's team captured the gold medal.

Thursday we departed on a flight to Brisbane. We then drove straight to the Currumbin Wildlife Park where we got to feed kangaroos and pet the koalas.

This park was crazy - it was very open without many walls or cages. We could be walking on the sidewalk and some crazy lizard would be crossing the pathway. We got to mingle with the kangaroos and even an emu ... they were so sweet and just wanted our love. The koala has to be the cutest animal ever!

Friday afternoon we had a surfing lesson - now that was an experience! I lost one earring and a headband in the process. The waves there were crazy because they keep coming and coming and coming ... and hard! We all had a blast and nobody had any shame at all and just owned up to every fall and wipeout.

Everybody was worn out after the lesson and passed out on the bus to the game. We stopped for a pregame meal and had some amazing Italian food.

We won our game that night against the Queensland Heat. The Heat took the lead, 2-0, in the first inning before Dani Miller tied it up for in the bottom of the second with a nice shot to left center.

If I had choose my favorite moment of the teams trip to Australia, it would have to be a tie between the bridge climb and the surfing lesson. They both provided entertainment in different ways but are two events that I will never forget.

Our departure home on Sunday came way too quickly. I think everybody could have stayed another 10 days because of the beauty that Australia has to offer. Twenty-seven hours later we arrived to a quiet South Bend campus on Sunday evening.

This trip really encompassed why being a student-athlete at Notre Dame is so great. I think our girls are so lucky because they were provided an opportunity of a lifetime that will bond them together forever.

My teammates and I will still share memories and laugh about our Australia trip back in 1999. Any student-athlete or coach will tell you that the times that you cherish and remember the most are not the hits, runs, goals, touchdowns or wins. Rather, the little moments you spend together in the training room, dining halls, locker room and definitely on the road.

This trip helped us transform from a group of 17 players to a team of 17 teammates. Thank you Notre Dame!

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2 Comments

And as we soon found out, Australia IS too sunny for me. I will be bathing in aloe vera for the next few weeks.

Great pictures and stories girls. Looks like you all had a great time.

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  • Jim Martin : Great pictures and stories girls. Looks like you all had a great time. read more
  • Laura Winter: And as we soon found out, Australia IS too sunny for me. I will be bathing in aloe vera for read more