Aug. 4, 2007
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of diary entries by Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner during her first stint with a USA Basketball team, playing for the U.S. U19 World Championship Team. In this latest installment, Lech lets us in on a very special dinner party and as the tournament winds down, the fun heats up for Team USA. Full recaps on the Americans' most recent games are linked at the bottom of the diary entry).
Wednesday August 1st
Today was a big game for us. We were matched up to play the home Slovakian team. The fans packed the arena and were sure to bring their horns, drums, and noisemakers in order to cheer on their team. I didn't know it, but those things are totally legal over here -- wonder if we can get them to allow that at the Joyce Center next season, too! Anyhow, they played us well for most of the game, but we were able to slowly pull away and ended up winning pretty easily.
After the game, we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We were all really excited because we were going to the house of the U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia (Rodolphe "Skip" Vallee) for dinner. What made it even more interesting was we ended up riding over there on the same bus with the Slovakians, the same team we just beat a few hours before! Actually, it was really cool to get to know them off the court and learn more about their culture and country.
The Ambassador's house was extremely nice, and he was very down to earth and made everyone feel like they were at home. The dinner was actually very interesting. There was a little table outside so me, Angie (Bjorklund), Vicki (Baugh), Krystal (Thomas), and Allyssa (DeHaan) all went outside to eat to get away from all of the people. We are all not really big on fancy dinners like the one we were at, so that was another reason we chose to eat outside. After a few minutes outside, the Ambassador decided to join us to make a little bit of conversation. I was being very social and polite, and then my high-class side, or lack thereof, was made apparent. First, my fork fell off my plate right in the middle of the Ambassador's story. Then, a few minutes later, my fork was sliding off my plate again (they were very small plates and extremely large forks, for the record) and as I went to grab it (yes, I caught the fork), I dumped my plate of salad all over the balcony floor. Let's just say I pride myself in making a good first impression. :)
After dinner, a lot of us went upstairs to play pool and to see the amazing view of the city from the Ambassador's third floor balcony. The Slovak girls had never played pool, so they just watched me kill Coop (assistant coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke) in one game, and then watched the never-ending game between Krystal and Angie. Then we finally convinced two of the Slovak girls to play and it was quite funny, but I have to give them some credit because they did good for their first time. After pool, it was time for us to leave, but not before me and Angie raided the desserts to take a little snack back to the hotel with us. First, she would go up to the table and grab as many cookies and brownies as she could, and then I would go and get as many as I could fit on my napkin. We just didn't want to be rude and let all of those good cookies go to waste!
Thursday August 2nd
Today was our day off, but we weren't allowed to relax until we had practice first. After practice, we went to a gymnastics facility to take an ice bath and try to get a little life back in our legs. I think it is safe to say that we had more fun watching the little girls practice on the bars than we did sitting in the freezing cold water. We talked a bit and then played the name game to make the time go by faster in the ice bath. We are very creative people when we are cold.
When we got back to the hotel we discovered that there was a Pizza Hut near by that delivered and decided to have that for dinner. Later on that night, half of the team decided to join me and Juice (Jantel Lavender) in our room and we ended up having a team pow-wow. It turned out to be somewhat of a venting session, because we are all pretty homesick and ready to get back to the States. The first day we arrived in Bratislava, Vicky, Jas (Jasmine Thomas), Kayla (Pedersen), Angie, and Juice all made calendars with a countdown to our arrivals home on them. Every night Juice and I cross off a day, as well as all the other girls. It's kind of a running joke on the team now. Every morning, we will announce how many days left, or how many practices left until we will be home. Anyway, on to the action packed part of the night ...
After our team pow-wow we noticed that Juice and I had a few old apples sitting in our room. Someone thought that it would be a good idea to throw them off of our balcony and try to get them into the dumpsters across the street. A few girls (I'm not going to mention any names since it's somewhat of a touchy subject with our coaches) had a competition to see who could get an apple into the dumpster. It was pretty fun even though only one girl actually made her apple. Later on after curfew, everyone had left and I was sitting on my balcony and Kayla was to the left of me outside on her balcony. We both noticed a cop car drive up with his lights on, park, and get out right in front of our hotel. Kayla was standing up and the cop shined a flashlight in her face and then started talking to her but we couldn't understand him because he obviously didn't speak English. A few minutes later Kayla ran back out to the balcony and told me that the cop was at her door and was asking for her passport.
Kay and I were both freaking out, so I had Moni (Monica Wright), who was on her balcony to the right of me, go get Carol (Callan, the USA Basketball Assistant Executive Director) who is in charge of everything. I thought everything was okay and that there was a big misunderstanding until we heard a knock on our door. When Juice and I opened the door we saw the cops there with Carol. She just wanted to get the details of the situation and wanted the cops to leave us alone. Once Carol found out what happened and explained it to the cops, they ended up leaving and we had a team meeting. I'll let you use your imaginations to what was said during the meeting, but without question, it was one of our more adventurous nights here in Slovakia!!! :)
USA 85, Czech Republic 66 (quarterfinals)
USA 69, Spain 46 (semifinals)