There are so many to thank for our wonderful experience. We must, of course start with Mr. Noucas. His initiative and hard work were the foundation for our trip. Tim Ryan and Jeff Ward are two more folks that deserve our appreciation. In the midst of the coaching transition, they both worked with Mr. Noucas to take care of the details surrounding our European tour. Their support is something that we will not soon forget! Thanks to Juliusz and to the Killester basketball families for extending themselves in so many ways. Thanks to our athletic trainer, Dennis Russell, who was a tremendous help (and a fun travel companion). Lastly, thanks to all of those (parents, partners, children) who supported us behind the scenes as we journeyed for two solid weeks. It was an opportunity that we are forever grateful for!
As we sit here at the airport waiting for our flight, the reality sets in that this is the end of an epic journey. We feel a range of emotions, from happiness for being home again to sadness that our amazing adventure has come to an end. We will fondly remember all the places we visited, the people we met and the experiences we shared.
“The moment that I enjoyed the most was being able to play along side the Killester girls team that we had scrimmaged earlier on Saturday. The club team had many players absent on ‘holidays,’ so Maria, Sabrina, Katie and I graciously put on our dirty socks and stylish, new, orange Killester uniforms to face the other US team from Indiana. We lost by a few points, but the experience is far more valuable and memorable than the score.” -Colleen Sweeney ’11
“One of the coolest experiences of mine was the Black Taxi Tour in Northern Ireland. One of my favorite classes at Bowdoin has been Politics of Ireland with Professor Deane. It was remarkable to see all of the historical sites around Belfast that I had only read about in books. Experiencing the history and struggle of Ireland and its people became such a tangible entity that was far more significant than what books could convey. The tour guide explained his personal experiences through the constant violence and chaos. I was touched by his pride and ownership of his city as he explained that Belfast is now the second safest city in the world.” -Leah Rubega ’10
“Some of my favorite memories of the trip took place in Warsaw, a city that once served as the battlefield of World War II. In Warsaw, we toured the Royal Castle, which was reconstructed after it was almost completely destroyed by the Germans in 1939. The people of Warsaw have tremendous pride in their efforts to rebuild a city that was so devastated by the war. After touring the royal castle, we viewed a film that showed footage of the city in ruins and told the story of the extraordinary bravery the Polish people displayed in their efforts to preserve their city. While Warsaw is a city often characterized by the tragedy and loss it suffered in the war, it also exemplifies the incredible resilience and spirit of the Polish people. This spirit became increasingly evident as we walked the streets of old Warsaw that evening.” (Leah Weiss ’11)
“Looking back on this amazing two week experience, several moments stand out in my mind as significant parts of our tour, but our visit to Auschwitz certainly ranks as one of the most powerful experiences. It is difficult to articulate what it was like to visit such an intense place, but after completing our tour, it was evident that we were all significantly impacted by what we learned at Auschwitz. Upon leaving the grounds of Auschwitz, a conversation broke out amongst a few of us about how we view the “comforts” of life, and the trivial matters of each day. For instance, we thought back to the day before when we had been walking through hot and sunny Krakow, proclaiming that we were thirsty and hungry. We realize that none of us really know what it means to actually be thirsty and hungry the way the Auschwitz victims were. This is only a small example of the lasting impression that our tour left us with. This was an important life experience for us all.” Sabrina Cote ’10
“One of my favorite days was when we went rafting, with Poland on one side of the river and Slovakia on the other. The best part of the tour was spending the three hours talking or trying to communicate with the seven year old son of one of our tour guides. I didn’t speak any Polish and he didn’t speak any English, but in three hours time we managed to exchange/learn a few words. He even learned how to sing “Row Row Row Your Boat!” It was a great experience and he was an adorable little boy.” Katie Bergeron ’11
“I cannot even put into words the cultural and historical lessons we all learned during our trip through all of the tours, walking and playing international basketball,. Being able to travel overseas with a Bowdoin team is a unique experience that we certainly made the most of!
I can’t look back on the trip and choose a favorite tour, place or experience – it just wouldn’t be fair! However, I did have the lucky privilege of spending my birthday over here! The team made it so special for me with a midnight kick-off at an Irish pub, listening and dancing to traditional Irish music. Thanks to Katie, who told the musicians that it was birthday, I got pulled up to play an Irish drum on one of hte songs. (They even gave me a free CD!) The next day before we left for Carrickfergus to meet the mayor, coach gave me a birthday card from Amanda Leahy ’08! She had snuck a card to coach before we left on our trip so I would have it on my birthday – how sweet! (Love you, Mandy!)
After a great day at Carrickfergus and an amazing home cooked meal from my host family we went out in Dublin with some of the Killester girls. It was so nice to spend my birthday with my favorite people – my teammates!
The memories that I have from this trip will stay with me forever. We have a lot of thanks to give to Mr. Noucas. None of this would have been possible without his years of involvement with the Seacoast Festival. Mr. Noucas is one of the most generous and selfless people that I have ever met. The relationships that he has made with people in both Poland and Ireland are a reflection of the kind of person he is. The effort, money, time and thought he put into this trip should not be overlooked! Thanks for everything, Mr. Noucas!” (-Jill Anelasukas ’09)
I agree with all of my teammates on their favorite memories. There were so many incredible moments on the trip, whether it was touring historical sites or celebrating a monumental birthday (finally). An underrated memory is our stop at the Black Madonna on our way to Warsaw. We had no idea what we were stopping to see. Juliusz told us to stop at this church on the way to Warsaw and that it would be worth it. We were all exhausted and just wanted to get to Warsaw and settle in. We trusted our bus driver to take us to the right place. He dropped us off at the end of a market and told us the church was at the top of the hill. This was probably the tenth church we had seen at this point, so we thought it would be just like the rest. When walking into the church initially, it appeared that way. Then, we tried to find the Black Madonna. Once we found it, the experience changed from boring to life-changing. We were surrounded by people who had made pilgrimages from hundreds of kilometers away to worship at the Black Madonna. These pilgrims were literally weeping at the thought of worshiping in this place. There we were, American tourists just stopping to see a painting. The collision of these two worlds was unbelievable. My jaw literally dropped at the sight of this happening. This was Mecca for Catholics. It was really overwhelming and left me speechless. This was the power of our trip. We knew the basics of everything we were going to see, but when we got there, it took an entirely different meaning. There weren’t many dull moments and we left every place with some type of new knowledge. – Maria Noucas ’09
“My favorite memory came in the final moments of our trip. As we stood at the baggage carousel awaiting our luggage, we knew that we would soon go our separate ways. Having shared two weeks together and countless memories, it certainly felt strange to acknowledge that our journey had come to an end. It was then that we decided to share in a symbolic group hug. I won’t forget that moment, nor will I forget the sentiments expressed in that circle. The journey has not ended, it has only just begun.” -Coach Shibles
Wednesday afternoon, we all met at the Malahide Castle for a tour arranged by our host mothers, Mary and Helen. The Malahide Castle sits on 250 acres of estate that was owned by the Talbot family for more than 800 years. It was sold approximately 40 years ago by one of the Talbot children and purchased by the Irish government.
We all returned to our host families following our tour and some shopping to prepare for dinner. We gathered at a small Italian restaurant at 8:30 in the charming seaside town of Malahide to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Jim and Mary Noucas. The night became more special when we discovered that it was also the 31st wedding anniversary of hosts, Peter and Pat Ferrari and the 25th anniversary of the Sweeneys, Colleen’s Mom and Dad.
The Bowdoin women treated their host parents to dinner in order to thank them for their hospitality. We also took the opportunity to present Mr. Noucas with some tokens of our appreciation. Mr. Noucas spent countless hours planning our European tour, and his contacts helped make this event a reality. We are forever grateful for his selfless contributions and his generosity!
Tuesday began with yet another big breakfast at the Europa. We all had an hour or two to do some last minute sight seeing or shopping before departing from Belfast. We then made our way to Carrickfergus, a quaint seaside town just North of Belfast. Carrickfergus is the sister city of Portsmouth, NH and the Noucas family (Portsmouth residents) had made arrangements to meet with the town officials. We arrived a few minutes early, and had some time to walk to the beautiful 12th century Norman castle in town.
At noon, we were met in city hall by the former Mayor of Carrickfergus, who presented us with a plaque to commemorate our visit. In return, Jill presented him with a book signed by the team. Mr. Noucas made his own presentation, including some fine gifts from Portsmouth.
The buffet lunch left us quite satisfied, and we finished our afternoon with a tour of city hall, the town museum, and St. Nicholas’ Church, a gorgeous 12th century church.
It was a three hour bus ride back to Dublin, where we met up with our host families once again. We had a little bit of time to settle into our routines before taking public transportation into Dublin for a night on the town. The women had a few hours of dancing time with their Irish host sisters to celebrate Jill’s birthday while the coaches walked the busy streets of Dublin. The team made friends with the Trinity (San Antonio, TX) men’s basketball team, who is also touring Ireland and happened to be at the same dance club.
We are hopeful that Jill will have lifelong memories of the birthday spent in Ireland with her teammates.
Our Monday morning in Belfast began with a traditional Irish breakfast in our Hotel Europa. We stuffed ourselves with eggs, bacon, sausage, potato bread, scones and fruit before heading off to tour via the Black Taxis. These tours gave the women a detailed look at the political history of Northern Ireland, and included stops at many of the powerful murals that decorate the buildings in Belfast.
Most everyone made it back to the Europa before the rain began. (The coaching staff was not as fortunate.) The rain has been relentless. Though we have had moments of sunshine, it has rained every day of our stay here. The residents of Dublin have been less fortunate; they tell us that it has rained nearly every day for three months!
We boarded our coach at “half two” (thats 2:30 ) and made our way through torrential rains to the Antrim Forum. There, we had the opportunity to take on the Belfast Rockets club team. The Rockets started strong and applied some intense defensive pressure. However, the Polar Bears exhibited composure, led by senior point guard Maria Noucas. Maria had two three point baskets in the first quarter to point her team in the right direction. Colleen Sweeney and Leah Rubega came off the bench to ignite Bowdoin with some physical play in the post and the Polar Bears led 37-24 at the half. The second half was all Bowdoin, with each and every player getting involved in the offense. At the end of regulation, the scoreboard read 78-41. Katie Bergeron finished with thirteen points, including three treys. Coleen Sweeney, Alexa Kaubris and Maria Noucas each added twelve while Jill Anelauskas had ten.
Following the game, the Mayor of Antrim presented Bowdoin with a special book and a plaque to celebrate our visit to town. The Belfast Rockets also gave us a generous gift in the form of a basketball that all of the players and coaches had signed.
The second game of the evening featured the Notre Dame men’s team and the Polish National Team. Though the Polish team was rumored to consider themselves favorites, it was never a contest. Notre Dame pulled away early in the game, and led by as many as thirty points.
We returned to our hotel at 10 and decided to cross the street to Robinson’s Pub. We had heard great things about the music in the back room of the pub, and we were not disappointed! The women danced to traditional Irish pub music, as well as a few American tunes. The highlight of the evening came at the stroke of midnight when the entire pub sang happy birthday to Jill. Our birthday girl was also invited by the musicians to assist them with one of their songs. Jill did an amazing job playing the bodhran, a traditional Irish drum.
We returned to the Europa exhausted, but thrilled about our day in Belfast.
The women arrived at St. David’s with their host families early this morning, and all were ready to take on the B&L Wildcats program. Following the team’s strong defensive performance versus Killester, we were looking to generate some offense. It was a great day for the Polar Bears, as the team pulled away to an 80-56 victory. The highlights of the game included strong transition offense, powerful denial defense in the post and a balanced scoring attack. Everyone contributed for Bowdoin. Alexa led the team with 17 points, while Jill added twelve. Caitlin and Katie both scored ten points, while Maria had nine. The Wildcats had two big, powerful posts and the entire squad made some solid adjustments throughout the game to limit their touches in the paint.
After some showers and a fine meal of cold cuts we boarded our coach for Belfast. Most napped on the road, while Alexa preferred the “eyes wide open” approach. We drove past some gorgeous countryside and eventually found ourselves in front of Hotel Europa, a swanky hotel in the center of town. Following our week in Poland at the sports dormitory and the hostel, it felt strange to walk into rooms with private bathrooms, flat screen TVs and feathers on the bed.
We had an hour to appreciate our new digs before changing and boarding the bus once again to head to Ardnavally, the home of Susan M. Elliott who is the Cosul General of the United States. There, we met the women we will play tomorrow at 5:00 from Belfast and the Notre Dame men’s basketball team. We will be competing in a double header with Notre Dame, who faces a tough Polish national team at 7:00.
We ate lasagna and mingled with the diverse crowd of athletes and attendees. Mr. Noucas and I spent some quality time with Mike Bray, head coach of the Notre Dame squad who said he plans to watch some of our game tomorrow. Before departing, the women presented Susan Elliott with a book detailing the history of Bowdoin College signed by the entire travel party.
Tomorrow we plan to rise early, consume our complimentary breakfast and hit the sightseeing trail in Belfast. Most of us plan to take a tour, whether by double decker bus or by Black Taxi.
The women squared off with the Dart Killester SL Ladies on Saturday afternoon at St. David’s in Artane. Artane is a suburb North of Dublin, and the club team we faced is one of the strongest in Ireland. Killester was missing a few of their women for various reasons, but a strong core of the team competed. In their midst was a large, talented post named Leah Westbrooks, who is a rising senior for Mount St. Marys in the States. Her brothers are NESCAC men, as Michael played for Colby and Aaron will be a senior at Trinity.
Leah and her teammates play a very physical brand of basketball, and it was certainly a different challenge for Bowdoin than the game in Poland. Following the first quarter, the Polar Bears led by just two points. The team got into a rhythm in the second quarter, with a strong performance by Caitlin Hynes. Caitlin scored three field goals in the paint with some nifty passing from fellow post, Leah Rubega to take a 26-18 lead at the half.
The shots refused to fall in the third quarter, and Leah Westbrooks stepped up her game for Killester. Leah began to take her defenders off the dribble from the high post area, drawing some fouls and dishing to teammates for some jumpers on the baseline. The team started the fourth quarter with just a five point cushion, up 36-31.
It was all Bowdoin in the fourth, led by sophomore Katie Bergeron. Katie scored 12 points in the final ten minute period, including two three point field goals and the game finished at 60-35. Katie led all scorers with 17, while Jill had thirteen. Caitlin did a nice job on Westbrooks and added eight points for Bowdoin.
The key to the victory? Rebounding and defense. The coaching staff had set a team goal for the Bears, and they exceeded our expectations. Their defensive intensity on screens was excellent, and the team prevented Killester from ever really finding a rhythm in their flex offense.
Following the contest, the team took the bus into Dublin for some lunch and a wee bit of shopping. We returned to the gym at 7 to watch Killester take on Indiana Wesleyan, a strong NAIA squad. Killester was missing some key players, and their coach asked if we wouldnt mind joining them for their second game. Maria, Katie, Sabrina and Colleen jumped at the opportunity. It was wonderful to see our women partner with their new Irish friends (many of the Killester women are our hosts while in Dublin). Weslyean pulled away and took a 20 point lead early in the game, but the Killester team fought back, with some important help from their Polar Bear teammates. In the end, Indiana Wesleyan held a seven point lead at the buzzer.