Aug. 9, 2007
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth and final installment 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 last edition, Lech talks about winning a gold medal and the party that followed, not to mention the goodwill that all the teams at the tournament shared. A recap of the Americans' gold medal victory over Sweden can be found here while a link to a photo gallery of her trip can be found at the bottom of this entry.)
Friday August 3rd/Saturday August 4th
Today started a little earlier than most of us would have liked. It's funny because during the summer at Notre Dame we have 6 a.m. workouts and it doesn't even faze me. But today, we had to wake up at 8 and it was a struggle for our entire team, including me!! Of course we had our shoot-around, pre-game meal, and then our quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic. They were a very disciplined team and put up a good fight. It was key for us to play smart the entire game because if you made one mistake, they were sure to capitalize. We played pretty well and ended up winning by 19.
After the game we watched the first half of the Spain-Australia quarterfinal game. We all wanted Australia to win because we already played Spain twice and we are not big fans of their team. We get along with all of the teams here really well except Spain. It's funny because whenever we go to dinner, our team will clearly be waiting in line and Spain will come up and try and cut our whole team. Our team developed a system so we never let them get food until our whole team is through the line. It's so funny because you know they're talking about you, but you can't understand what they're saying because it is in Spanish. I guess you could say we are not the biggest fans of Spain. Anyway, our team left at halftime of the game to go get McDonald's for dinner. We found out later that Australia was up the entire game and Spain hit a half-court shot to win the game. So now we play Spain for the third time!! It reminds me of last season when we had to play DePaul three times in a matter of a couple of weeks.
The rest of the night was relaxing. Everyone was just hanging out on the computer or in someone's room. Angie (Bjorklund) was in my room for a little bit and thought it would be a good idea to spray Off! all over my legs and feet. Yes, I said Off! ... you know, the mosquito repellent. For some reason, Angie has been getting bug bites all over her legs at night. I told her it's because Off! attracts bugs and that Juice (Jantel Lavender) and I hadn't had any bugs or mosquitoes in our room the entire trip. The next morning, I woke up and of course, I had my first mosquito bite on the back of my heel. I was sure to let Ang know that I was not a happy camper and that my theory was correct and the only time I got a mosquito bite was when she sprayed Off! on me!!
Sunday August 5th
Today was the championship game against Sweden. It was also the final day of our trip. After breakfast, we all stood in the hallway and sang "Oh Happy Day" because we were so excited to play for the gold and then head on home! The game against Sweden was easier than I was expecting, and we didn't have any trouble beating them. The celebration was so awesome once we finally won. It was so great to finally achieve what we have been chasing for weeks, especially after all of our hard work.
Right after we won, we did our "superman dance" that we have been doing the entire trip on the court, and then we headed for the podium. First, they gave all of our team and coaches our medals, then we sang to "We Are The Champions" while they poured confetti down from the ceiling, and then they played our national anthem. It was incredible to have the gold medal around my neck with my country's anthem playing. It was crazy because you watch medal ceremonies during the Olympics and there I was doing the exact same thing.
After the game we went back to the hotel to eat and shower, and then we went to a reception at this club by our hotel. The night ended up being a blast. There were a lot of the other teams there and we were all dancing and having a great time. We even danced with some of our referees. It was absolutely hilarious because a ref named Roberto was dancing on a table and was trying to get everyone to join him. When we went back to the hotel, we started trading things with the other teams. It's really cool because all the girls just walk around and come to your room and ask if you want to trade. You trade basically whatever you have, things like practice gear, shirts, shorts, jerseys, and even shoes. I kept both of my jerseys but traded a lot of other stuff for an Australian shirt, a Slovakian jersey, a Brazil jersey, a pair of Spain and Lithuania game shorts, and two really nice Spain warm-up shirts. After we traded we all just hung out around the hotel. Our team pulled an all-nighter because we had to leave at 5:30 to go to the airport and by the time we finished everything it was already 2:30. Our flight was good and when we got to D.C. everyone said there good-byes. I had a lot of trouble with my connecting flight to Chicago and it was delayed four hours. Other than that, my travels home were pretty good.
All in all I had a really great experience. It was awesome to go undefeated and win the gold, but I enjoyed our interaction with the girls from different countries just as much. It was fun to try and get around the language and culture barriers. I also enjoyed traveling to all of the different countries. I have never really been out of the country and I had so much fun being in and touring the other cities and countries. I had a blast with the girls on the team and they made the trip even more enjoyable. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of this experience. It really was the experience of a lifetime.
I also want to thank all of the great Notre Dame fans who have been following our team over in Slovakia the past few weeks and had a chance to read some of these journal entries. You guys are the best fans in the country and your support is amazing!! Now, don't forget to get your season tickets and get fired up because Irish women's basketball is just around the corner ... GO IRISH!!
PHOTO GALLERY -- Lech at the U19 World Championships