May 22, 2004
Dear Gator Fans,
I write this last entry from the Atlanta airport. We departed the hotel 15 hours ago with the flight to Tampa and a bus ride to Gainesville remaining. If you run into some dazed, blurry-eyed Gators during the next day or so, understand it's not the jet lag, but rather, the sadness of seeing the Europe excursion come to an end.
As with any successful season - of which this two week trip certainly was - even with the 2-4 record, there is plenty of credit and thanks to go around:
- to Bring It USA Tour leaders Tim, Cory, and Jo - you promised and you delivered. We couldn't ask for a better trip.
- to staff assistant Kelley Kish for all her hard work before, during (and no doubt after) to make things run smoothly for all of us.
- to Associate Head Coach Nick Cheronis for all his work prior to the trip getting our team physically ready, and the "Five Language" Teaching you provided during the trip.
- to Assistant Coach Arlisa Hagan for your enthusiasm for the trip and over-the-top effort to learn three new languages.
- to trainer Matt Walser (pinch hitting for Laurie Doody, now the proud Mom of son Conner John) for your abilities and enthusiasm. Football has been lucky to have you.
- to Sony Walser, wife of Matt, who brought ACL-torn Amber McCray from hobbling on crutches around campus, to walking without crutches through the streets, stairs, trains, museums, palaces, etc. of Europe. You are our miracle worker.
- to Dr. Ann Grooms who without, we would have been searching for a hospital in Leverkusen, Germany for Marcie. There's something we won't miss: Marcie's tonsils!
- to Dr. Mr. Grooms (as we refer to him) for making a run at Roberta for "Most Fit Gator" of the trip.
- to SID LeeAnne Sears who battled internet issues to bring you these updates, no matter how late it was or how illegible my hand writing.
- to Lori Creamer Cheronis, the funny one and consummate team traveler: you need to travel with the Gators more often!
- to Mark Wise, husband, Dad of traveling Mitchell, and slayer of the Metro System: you kept it fun for all of us.
- to Jim Burgess, our resident photographer, whose talent will provide us memories for years. We'd want you with us even without the camera.
- to Bret Chen, Gator Fan Extraordinaire - for wearing the "perma grin" through Europe and somehow never getting separated from the group.
- to Roberta Seldman for the bike ride in Versailles, introducing us to Allie, and making new pictures with us.
- to Mitchell Wise, the best darn 10-year-old traveler you could ever want with you. Who else could eat McDonald's in three different countries and love it?
- Katie Grube, or "Katie the Rabbit" for leading the morning runners and reminding us that we aren't in our 20's anymore. Have a blast these next few weeks. If you decide to stay in Europe next year, we'll understand.
- Lance Burbank, our manager and bus packer - thanks for all your hard work (especially carrying all of Taylor's stuff on the way home) and for your patience with Mitchell.
AND to the players - we learned much about ourselves, both on the court and off:
Taylor Williams, voted "Player Most Likely To Live In Europe". You took to this trip with the same commitment you've given our program. Just as a bum leg won't stop you on the court, we doubt the lost wallet will stop you during the next few weeks. You, however, MUST come back in the fall.
Sherri Williams: our one healthy middle blocker who carried such a huge load all spring and on this trip. We know you will be back - you have the talent and the large comfort zone to make it happen. Can we visit?
Lauren Moscovic: the hardest working setter we've ever had in the program. Chasing down some of those passes wasn't easy, but neither is eating schnitzel but you gave it that same effort.
Michelle Chatman: voted "Player Least Likely To Live In Europe". We know you liked the food about as much as you liked not playing in the spring. The good news is, both is behind us. ;-)
Jane Collymore: our French speaking player, who took her game to the next level during this trip. You too will be back but not before we accomplish much as a Gator.
Rachel Engel: welcome to the libero position, Rachel. Nothing like passing some of these serves. You are ready and we're ready to have you on the court full-time!
Stefanie Douglas: voted the "Player Most Likely to Sleep Through Europe". That's ok, because when you're awake, you are no longer playing like a freshman. We love having 6'4" in the middle, on the right, on the left?
Rhian Davis: you did the best imitation of Renaldo off the court, and a "spark plug" on the court.
Marcie Hampton: with tonsils the size of volleyballs, you not only got through the trip, you elevated your game. Adios, tonsils!
Last, but certainly not least, Amber McCray. To make this trip on one leg and never once complain - you get our vote for "Player of the Trip". We can't wait to see you on the court again.
And should you ever need to know, the players offered the following advice:
You Know You're Playing in Europe
…the water on the bench has bubbles.
…shopping carts are used as ball carts.
…every player on every team serves missiles.
…following the match, the outside hitter who single handedly beat you, lights up a cigarette.
…one-armed emergency digs are delivered right to target.
…there are more different colored lines than a children's coloring book.
…the balls have as much air as the water on the bench.
…the same cabinet that stores the balls also holds the beer.
…the other team's setter graduated from high school the same year as your mother.
…you can't go to the bathroom between games because you aren't carrying Euro cents.
…your pre-game meal - which is still mooing on the plate - takes longer to eat than your match does to play.
…the warm-up music has cuss words in them.
See you in September,