Over the course of summer break, three Muhlenberg athletic programs packed their bags and headed overseas to Italy. Highlights from the trip include: sightseeing, eating excellent food, learning about Italian culture and visiting many of Italy’s top tourist destinations. Most importantly, the trips were the beginning steps towards a successful regular season once the new school year begins as the teams faced international competition during their trips. The first team to travel to Italy was football, arriving in Italy shortly after the school year had ended in late May. Many tourism highlights included a lesson in Ancient Roman history, touring the Colosseum and visiting the Vatican.
Offensive Guard Sam Rothstein ‘21 states, “My favorite moments of the Italy trip included being on the floor of the Colosseum, not many people get that opportunity so being able to be in such a special spot with my team was amazing. We are the modern day gladiators, so it just felt right. I also loved going to the Vatican, all the culture and power that area had was breathtaking.”
The gladiators from Allentown brought their talents to the football field against Guelfi Firenze, a Florence-based team that finished a successful regular season in the Italian League First Division and were preparing for the upcoming playoffs. To mitigate the risk for injury, the teams conducted a one-hour practice before playing in a short scrimmage.
While the Mules did not play in a full 60-minute game, Rothstein found competing against Guelfi Firenze as an essential step towards preparing for the 2019 season. “Playing Guelfi Firenze was an incredible experience. They were great guys to meet, practice and play with. I think the overall benefit came from just being able to be in pads again after the season and hit someone. It kept us a little more fresh so we were even more ready than usual for when camp started in August,” Rothstein said.
In early August, the Muhlenberg Field Hockey team began their trip to Italy, which included a wine tasting excursion in Bra, visiting the Trevi Fountain in Rome, and visiting Cinque Terre, a collection of villages on the coast. Goalie Jordan Segrave ‘20 reflected on her favorite moments from the trip. “Some of my favorite moments were being able to explore the cities on our own and try all different kinds of food. Milan, Rome and Florence were all so beautiful. My favorite, however, was Cinque Terre. We visited the second village on the train and it was absolutely gorgeous,” said Segrave.
On the field, the team faced several Italian teams consisting of players from a wide range of experience levels. Segrave commented on this unique experience. “Playing against the international team was insane. The ages ranged from 13-45 so we were matched up against all different skill levels. The style of hockey overseas is slightly different than it is here so it was really cool to watch and play with such a diverse group of players. You could tell they played for the love of the game and I think some of that rubbed off on our team and I hope we continue to play that way this season,” Segrave explained.
Through both competing against international teams and visiting many beautiful sights, Segrave believes that the team’s camaraderie is at a new level. “I think the trip has definitely bonded us more than we had been. We all became closer off the field so playing on the field has become more comfortable and more fun,” she added.
Concluding the trips across the Atlantic were the Muhlenberg Women’s Basketball team, visiting Italy just a week prior to the start of the school year. Highlights of the trip included a pizza-making class in San Marino, taking a gondola ride in Venice and a visit to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Guard Emily O’Mahoney ‘20 remarks, “One of my favorite moments on the trip to Italy was taking a gondola ride in Venice. The ride was very relaxing and it was amazing to be able to navigate the canals of Venice. Another one of my favorite moments was watching a live tutorial on glass blowing. It is such a unique craft,” O’Mahoney reminisced.
On the hardwood, the Mules competed against one of the top teams from a German pro league. Facing an experienced team instilled a sense of elation for the Mules and O’Mahoney believes that their matchup brought out the best in them. “Playing against international competitors that play at a high level showed us what we can be. Playing overseas allowed the team to get back together and get excited for the 2019-2020 season,” said O’Mahoney.
While the Mules gained a head start for successful regular season back in the states, the trips were a life-changing event for the athletes. Segrave exclaims, “I think the fact that I was able to go overseas for the first time ever with a group of my best friends was the best part. I will never be able to have an experience like that again.”
With companionship at an all-time high, the life changing trips to Italy have translated to the early stages of the regular season. Field Hockey has won their first three games, football won their season opener this past Saturday, while Women’s Basketball is seeking to add another Centennial Conference Championship to their record setting total later this year. Both Field Hockey and Football begin conference play this weekend and look to build upon their early season success.