Aug. 1, 2011
Seniors Cathy Hebert and Gwen Branscome are defensemen for the UC lacrosse team and are spending part of their summer in London, England for the London Lax Challenge with Sherry Sports Tours International, an organization aimed at giving collegiate and post-collegiate athletes the opportunity to participate in tournaments and team camps all over the world. For the next week, Hebert will provide updates for GoBEARCATS.com as the duo competes internationally, experiences a new culture of lacrosse and roams the royal city.
Today was another amazing and eventful day in London. We surprisingly had awesome weather all day, which made our games this morning even more enjoyable. Our first “match” was against the U-19 Welsh team. They wanted to get in their pregame habits for the World Cup, so we had to do a formal pregame ceremony. Apparently at the World Cup, each team has their own special way of doing their national anthem. One of the traditions includes linking arms and singing a perfectly pitched acapella version of their anthem and then exchanging Welsh pins with their opponents. Even though it was awesome for us to hear and receive, we weren’t entirely prepared for this. All of us are tone deaf, so our pitchy rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” was painful for both groups and eight audience fans/Welsh parents to endure.
We thought we were finished embarrassing ourselves for the day, but we didn’t know what awaited us at the post game handshake (I’ll come back to this in a minute). We traded the lead throughout the match before the Welsh team pulled ahead and stalled towards the end. Both Gwen and I started and played all but a few minutes of the game and had a ton of fun. Then came the cheer and handshake portion of the match. This ritual consists of the team lining up about a foot and a half apart on opposite sides of the 50-yard line. Someone will give a quick speech about the game before saying “three cheers for [insert team name],” which is followed by that same person saying “hip-hip” and the team following with “hooray” as they all simultaneously hit their sticks on the ground. This is repeated three times, but they chose to add in a fourth for good luck. Thank goodness we happened to have two older Welsh girls on our team, so they quickly broke it down for us before leading it for us. We would not be so fortunate after our next match.
Our second and final match of the day was against the Welsh Senior team. This game wasn’t as close, but it was just as fun. One of the girls’ fiancé really wanted to play and since we needed substitutes, we let him. Apparently lacrosse is predominately played by women in Europe so it’s not that unusual for guys to randomly hop in. So he (Raj) suited up and joined our team… And by suited up I mean he threw on one of our t-shirts, picked up his fiancé’s extra stick and walked on the field. Needless to say this entire scene was highly entertaining.
After the game, our bus driver drove us around the outside the Wimbledon tennis facility and the Chelsea football/soccer stadium, both of which were awesome. We then headed back to hotel to get ready to go to the Portobello Market in Notting Hill. They sell everything from silverware and screen captures from movies, to soccer jerseys and signage. We all picked up some gifts for our families and a couple things for ourselves. When the market closed at 5 p.m., we loaded a double-decker bus to London’s west end. Here we grabbed a quick dinner before seeing the “Wicked,” which was absolutely phenomenal.
Today was a much more successful day on the lacrosse field. We had really good chemistry and were looking like a real team, which is really cool considering it was the third time we’ve played together.
In our first game, we defeated the Scottish U-19 team, 11-7. After a quick break, we played the West London women’s team. We ended up beating them by a lot, but both teams were having fun and joking around all game. Gwen and I both played really well in both games! After the West London game, both teams headed to an adorable neighborhood pub for lunch. All of the girls are hilarious and so much fun to hang out with that we didn’t end up heading back to town around 6 p.m. Most of the group had a quick turnaround because we were leaving for the London Eye at 7:30 p.m. So Gwen and I quickly got ready before dashing out for some much needed coffee.
The London Eye was (not surprisingly) a bit pricey, but it was definitely worth it to see the city skyline just after sunset. After taking tons of pictures and a quick souvenir stop, we headed out for a late dinner.
Tomorrow brings our last lacrosse commitment of the trip – a “practice” with some of the girls we’ve played against and with the past few days. They pushed our departure time back giving so we could sleep in a bit! These next few days will be mostly dedicated to sightseeing and shopping, so it should be an amazing last few days.