Follow the Triton women's soccer team and men's water polo team as they prepare for their upcoming seasons by traveling around the world. The women's soccer team will head South to Costa Rica and men's polo will head across the Atlantic to Croatia. Both teams will play elite competition as well as take in the sights while learning about each of the native cultures. Check back daily to see what the teams have been up to.

SUMMER 2011 - ON THE ROAD with Triton Men's Water Polo in Croatia

The UC San Diego Men's Water Polo team is in the midst of a two-week international experience in Croatia, one of the world's water polo hotbeds. Throughout the trip, Triton junior John Butler from Hillsborough, CA will be sending reports back, providing his observations from the road and detailing the team's adventures.

"Dobra Da!" (Good Day!-for all of you who don't speak Croatian.)
We are all starting to grow accustomed to several phrases in the Croatia language. The most important being "Hvala" or "thank you"-pronounced Va-la. Our hosts at the Pansion Moca have been outstanding. A young man, a few years younger than us, named Antonio works for his parents in the family-run hotel. He has been a great resource and has a wealth of information about Makarska and the neighboring cities we are going to be traveling during the remainder of our trip; such as Dubrovnik and Tucepi.  

Before we get to our most recent competition against the neighboring club; Tucepi, here is a quick update on the team and how we are adapting to playing the European style of water polo, not to mention playing in the Adriatic Sea! The most honest difference between the U.S. and European styles of play was summed up flawlessly by Makarska's local club coach Chedo. "We take pride in our legs, and you Americans take pride in your arms."

All the Croatian clubs we have played are filled with players that have stellar leg strength. Whether it's using the 'eggbeater' to elevate themselves higher or move us college boys around in the water, the European style of play is much more physical and leg strength is where the battle is won and lost. Using our own strength, though, we have been able to out-swim a few teams to this point and have had success in the counter attack. With that knowledge we made a short road trip down the Dalmatian Coast to the city of Tucepi.

Tucepi, like all the towns we will be traveling to in Croatia, is a port city. Built right alongside the water , it comes complete with a water polo course right in the harbor! Literally, one side of the water polo arena backs up to a row of boats inside the protected harbor. It was quite an experience! But the coolest thing was that the local club had been promoting the game! There were flyers up all around town with Tucepi vs UCSD. My teammates and I had joked around about playing in front of a big crowd and by the time we were in the pool for warm ups the fans were growing! Also, pre-game music in Croatia is not quite the same as we would play at Canyonview. But the music definitely gets you excited and it was played so loud that by the start of the game the pool was packed!! Standing room only for the Tucepi vs UCSD match (It felt like the whole town was there)!

The first quarter of any game is always the most intriguing, if you ask me. No one knows which way the game will flow or what the game plan is for either team. The first quarter against Tucepi was an incredible learning experiencing for us as we had to get a feel for the other team right away and make adjustments on the fly as necessary. The game was extremely hard fought and was close up until the final whistle. Unfortunately, we suffered a loss, 10-9. However, our team is getting better each day. As we play the more difficult teams, our level of play rises to meet the challenge.

The younger players on our team have made some big steps in improving their individual skills and are playing at a higher level more consistently. Combined with the leadership and knowledge of the upperclassman, the team is really starting to gel and things are starting to click. Plays and ideas are coming together faster and effectively. With still a few more days left in Croatia, I'm itching for the 2011 season to start in a few short weeks.

But there is still time here in Croatia! The next night we played the local club Makarska again. Only this time their hometown hero, Ivan Buljubasic, joined them. Ivan is 23 years old and a member of the Croatian National Team. He had just returned from the 14th FINA World Championships, in Shanghai, China, where the Croatian team took home the bronze medal, beating Hungary, 12-11. In the match, Ivan scored a goal and played an excellent game. We were lucky enough to watch the match live earlier this week.

Ivan is the best player that any of us from the UCSD team have had the opportunity to play against. He is a massive 6-6, 220 lbs. He's not only bigger, faster and stronger than anyone I've ever played against, he's unbelievably talented. Things we watch on You Tube highlight reels he does in everyday scrimmages and practices. That night's game was biting off a bit more than we could chew. The result was a Makarska win, 11-9.

Playing against Ivan Buljubasic was an incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity. He is only three years older than me but has accomplished more than I could ever hope to. He debuted for Croatia in 2007 at the World Championships and played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  I look forward to applying some of Ivan's techniques to the WWPA competition this fall and continuing to watch our new friend Ivan compete internationally for years to come.

 


Saturday, July 30

Hello again! The past few days have been crazy and filled with activity. First we spent a day sailing the Adriatic on 'Calypso'. The boat took us out from Makarska at 8:30 AM and over to the island of Havar. There we got off for about an hour and walked around the town of Jelsa. The town had similar architecture to Makarska but is known for its vineyards. People have vineyards on all sides of the island of Havar but we learned that depending upon where they grow they produce a very different grape.

After the a culture and history lesson we hopped back on the 'Calypso' for a short trip over to Bol. Bol is one of the most unique beaches in the world. The main beach comes to a perfect triangle at the point and is packed on all sides with tourists and locals. After a quick tanning session in our 'speedos' we went for a swim. The water was unbelievably clear and refreshing from the heat. After a day on the beach at Bol the boat ride back to Makarska was smooth. Coming back across the sea was incredible as we managed to catch a glimpse of a pod of dolphins. The day was unforgettable yet as we docked it was back to business. We slept well that night yet were eager to play our first game the next night!

Our first game of the trip was against the local club, Makarska. The team had players aging from 17-38 years old but the guys we played against were all studs who had clearly been playing the game for many years. The euro style of water polo is much more physical and mano y mano. They are all extremely smart and make few mental errors but luckily for us we were in better shape and able to take advantage of them on the counter attack. The final score was a tie-14-14.  We were able to talk to them for a little bit afterwards and we all garnered some priceless experience playing against them. We played them in the ocean arena under the lights and it was pretty cool to have a crowd from the town come out to watch.

The next night we traveled 30 minutes north to the town of Omis and played their local club. The town of Omis is similar to Makarska in many way but has some cultural novelties that Makarska does not. Omis was a pirate port from the 14th century up through the 16th and into the 17th century. The town's highlight is a colossal 14th century castle that is perched up on a cliff over looking the harbor and town below. The castle spanned the entire cliff and was incredible for us to see in person. Its one thing to see photos of these massive castles from our history classes but they are jaw-dropping to see up close, in person.

Once everyone had settled down we got our suits on and hoped in the local (again in ocean!) arena in Omis. The arena is very similar to Makarska with floating lane lines and goals but is right off the side of the beach no more than 10 feet away. The water dropped off quickly and then leveled off around 10 feet deep for the majority of the arena. Omis was again an older more experienced team comprised of the local community. It's amazing to think that while we grow up playing AYSO, Tee Ball or basketball, over here in Croatia the kids go down to the arena and play water polo. We had taken a few things we learned from the Makarska club and were more prepared for the game against Omis. We came out strong and played some stellar defense holding them to only six goals. The final score was a 12-6 UCSD victory. After the game, we thanked the local players and coach for having us and were stoked to have our first win in Croatia.

This trip keeps getting better and better and I know the team is stoked for some more games coming up later this week.

 

Wednesday, July 27

Today was the first day of practice in Croatia. We had a lovely breakfast at our little hotel and then headed down into town and out to the arena. After a short talk from Denny (Harper), our coach, it was a made dash into the sea. People were diving to the bottom and checking out some of the little fish swimming beneath us. The water was relatively deep probably less than 20 feet. The salt water was definitely a novelty and took people a few minutes to adjust to but the rush of playing water polo in Croatia and in the Adriatic Sea kept everyone moving.

After our first workout, some of my teammates and I walked around Makarska and got to see a little more of the town. The entire village of Makarska was built within 300 meters of the harbor, which makes for some amazing views of the Adriatic. Makarska, in particular, has some very old architecture and a quaint little town square with a church as the centerpiece. Then we walked out and around this little peninsula. There were yet again some amazing views back into the town but we also ran across a very old church. The church of St. Peter was built on the highest point of the peninsula around the mid-18th century. On our way back we passed a massive lighthouse and grabbed a quick bite to eat before our second workout.

This workout was a little out of the ordinary. Instead of grinding through a swim set and then water polo drills, we were surprised with an ocean swim around St. Peters peninsula! The swim took about 40 min round trip and was definitely a good workout. As we swam along the coastline you could see through the crystal blue water all the way to the bottom at times. Unlike La Jolla however, there are no sharks and the sea life we saw was the occasional school of fish and some sea urchins. After everyone made it back to the arena we made the walk back up the hill to our family-owned hotel and laid down for a well-deserved nap.

The next few days are going to be jam-packed. Tomorrow we are doing a little tourist day and taking a boat out to Havar and Bol. Then the next two days following that we will have our first two games in Croatia. The first is against the local club, Makarska, and then we are taking a short trip up the coast to play the team from Omis. Should be quite the learning experience!

 

Tuesday, July 26

Hello from Makarska! We made it! The San Diego International Airport was barely awake when we arrived Monday morning at 4:30 AM to check in for the first leg of our trip to Croatia. Many of my teammates had barely slept the night before and we were excited to begin our training trip. Bags packed and spirits high we set out for our first stop along the way, Philadelphia.

After a short layover in Philadelphia, we boarded our next flight to Munich, Germany. From Munich we flew to Zagreb, Croatia. Zagreb is the capital of Croatia located to the north in the center of the country. From Zagreb we boarded a small prop plane and flew the short distance to Split, Croatia. Split is located to the west in Croatia, down on the southern coastline. From Split it was a nice drive along the coast, mind you bumpy at times, to our final destination Makarska!

We arrived late in the afternoon on Tuesday after traveling for over 24 hours! When we arrived, the view from our apartment down to the village and out on to the Adriatic Sea was breathtaking. This picturesque country is also home to some of the world's top water polo. The local water polo course is played in the Adriatic Sea! It's an ocean course with floating goals surrounded by a floating dock. Should be quite an experience.

Everyone is extremely tired and I'm barely able to stay awake myself. Look for more to come soon. My teammates and I can't wait to play some water polo in the Adriatic!!


SUMMER 2011 - ON THE ROAD with Triton Women's Soccer in Costa Rica

Check out photos from their trip

SARAH McTIGUE
Senior - Bellflower, CA

Thursday, July 28

What an amazing last day!  For our last adventure we went white water rafting down the Pacuare River.  It's one of the top five rivers in the world for rafting (according to our guide, Ray) and they are having the World Rafting Championship qualifiers there next week.  Needless to say that made us feel pretty awesome to be rafting down the same river professionals do.

 Our day started off with a not-so-welcome 5:40 AM wake up call to get us on the bus and leaving by 6:00 AM.  It was a two-hour drive to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.  They took us to their restaurant first and fed us a delicious breakfast complete with gallo pinto to fuel us up for our workout.  After breakfast we drove another hour to the launch point on the river where we were more than excited to finally get started after all that driving.

We were split up into four boats with five-or-six people and one guide in each boat.  Annie (Wethe), Lisa (Bradley), Gabi (Hernandez), Amanda (Esquivel), and Jonesy (Asst. Coach Kristin Jones) were all in my boat.  With helmets secured, lifejackets on tight and paddle in hand we all timidly climbed into the raft trying very hard not to get our feet wet in the river.  We planted ourselves in the middle of the boat because that seemed like the safest place to sit.  Ray laughed a little at that (he laughed at us a lot it seemed) and told us we would be sitting on the edge of the raft.  He also quickly shattered our illusion of any dryness by spraying us all with his paddle until there wasn't a dry spot on any of us.  Now faced with the realities of what rafting was really going to be like, we headed off on our three-hour adventure!

The scenery was picturesque and all our guides were so much fun.  As if simply going down Class 1-4 rapids wasn't going to be exciting enough, they had awesome things for us to do the whole way.  One group had plant stalks sticking out of their helmets and mud stripes on their faces.  Other groups had guides throwing them out in the water or scaring them with facts about the river that weren't true (like the river being full of snakes and piranhas).  As we went down the river we got to ride on the very front of the raft down a rapid, go through a rapid out of the boat, all sit in the back of the boat through a rapid, and even stand up on the edges of the boat in still water using our paddles for balance.

Everyone ended up in the water at some point or another either because they were thrown in by a guide, dumped out by a rapid, or simply jumped in by choice.  One of the best parts of the excursion was when we had a long stretch of still water under a lush jungle canopy.  Everyone got to get out of the rafts to swim around and float down the river together.  It was so serene.

The three hours were over quickly but I was excited to get back.  Getting back meant having lunch and I had worked up an appetite.  After another delicious meal we headed back to the hotel.  White water rafting was by far one of the most fun and exciting things we did.  I think I laughed the whole way down the river.  After our last dinner together in Costa Rica we got back to the hotel and packed our bags to make sure we were ready for our 4:30 AM wake up call the next morning.  Apparently we like mornings.  This has been an unbelievable trip and now we are all very excited to come back and get ready for season!


SARA SPAVENTA
Senior - Santa Barbara, CA


Wednesday, July 27

Today was an amazing day! Many of the girls are beginning to get very nostalgic as our trip is quickly coming to an end and we have had many memorable adventures during our stay in Costa Rica. But we could not have asked for a better last couple of days!

We woke up early this morning at the hotel in Jaco and headed to the buffet for breakfast! Upon entering the dining area we noticed there were monkeys crawling on the rooftops of the building! Every once in a while they would climb down mischievously to steal some pancakes or sugar packets! It was quite hilarious and Gabi (Hernandez) even managed to feed one of the monkeys a piece of pineapple. One of the monkeys was also carrying a baby on its back, which was absolutely adorable! I quickly ran back to my room to grab my camera so that I could photograph the mother and her child!

After breakfast we all returned to our rooms to finish some last minute packing, and then set off on the bus ride to San Jose for our last game against the Costa Rican National Team. The bus ride was long but we always manage to amuse ourselves for hours and forget about the time! I could never have asked for a better group of teammates, and more importantly best friends, as we all get along so well and could truthfully spend hours and hours together and still be so happy and excited to be with one another!

When we arrived at the field we quickly put on our gear and began to warm up! Brian (McManus) and Jonesy (Kristin Jones) warned us that the team would be much better than the team we had previously played, as they would play all of their best players since we had beat them the last two times! This proved to be true only minutes into the game when we noticed that the speed of play was much faster and the girls on the other team were very skilled and motivated!

The game was scoreless until the last five minutes when Alexa Enlow made an absolutely beautiful feed across the goal where Courtney Capobianco was standing ready to head the ball in! Courtney showed great patience and composure as she waited for the right moment to jump above the defenders and goalie and head the ball into the goal past them! Everyone cheered extremely loudly as we were so proud of each of our teammates and the hard work we had put in during the entire game! Every player gave it their all and I always walk off the field at the end of our games with a huge smile on my face because I know that my teammates are willing to do anything for one another and work hard for one another on and off the field to accomplish our goals!

After the game we took a picture with the Costa Rican team, and then headed to the open-air markets in downtown San Jose to shop one last time before our trips comes to an end! Many people bought souvenirs and presents for our families and friends! A couple girls also found a restaurant where they were able to pay only four dollars for a casado, which is a meal composed of rice, black beans, and chicken, and is very common in Costa Rica!

Having shopped and eaten, we got back on the bus happily and drove back to the original hotel we had stayed in San Jose. Once we got back many girls headed to the Super Mercado to buy authentic and delicious cookies to bring home with them, and then we all went in the hot tub where we laughed and talked about everything we had done so far on the trip and how we could not believe tomorrow will be our last day!



Kristin Armstrong
Senior - Anaheim, CA


Tuesday, July 26

After our full and hectic day yesterday, today we were able to sleep in as long as we wanted provided that we ate breakfast by 10:30 AM. Many girls were sore from the game and tired from the long bus rides there and back, so this was a welcome change of pace.

We ate at the breakfast buffet,which was delicious as usual. Everything went pretty smooth, with the exception of Hayley (Johnson) having some difficulty with telling the Spanish-speaking chef that she wanted her pancakes more "raw" than normal pancakes. Even though she eventually had Gabi (Hernandez) help her get her point across, I'm not sure that the chef quite understood what she was trying to say. The language barrier stands tall...

At 11 AM, we had the option of going on a crocodile and bird-watching tour or staying at the hotel and having a day free to do whatever we wanted. Most of the team (myself included) decided to go on the tour. On the bus ride over, "Professor" (Kristin) Jones gave us all a lesson on the differences between crocodiles (which we were going to see) and alligators (which are most commonly found in the Southeastern US and in some parts of Asia). Feeling slightly more educated, we arrived at the Tarcoles River, paid for our tickets at the dock, and boarded the boat.


We saw many crocodiles as we went through the river. It was tough spotting them, because there were lots of wooden trunks, sticks, and logs floating in the river that looked like crocodiles. Gabi called them "trunkodiles" so that we could easily clarify which were real and which weren't. After sifting through the plethora of trunkodiles, we finally saw some crocodiles. We saw lot of crocodiles but we were even more surprised when our tour guide told us that there are usually about 40 crocodiles hiding in the area even when only one or two were visible. The river has at least 25 crocodiles per square kilometer along the river.

The biggest one we saw was about 20 feet long(which is about the biggest size that crocodiles can grow to be)! Our boat driver even fed a few of the crocodiles some raw chicken! He actually got out of the boat into the water along the riverbank and baited the crocodiles with chicken, waited until they got super close (less than a foot or two away), then released the food into their mouths when they reached for it. Many of us feared for his life. I can't believe he got so close to the crocodile without being bitten, but he was very careful.

The tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable; he told us a number of interesting facts about the crocodiles we saw. For example, crocodiles are like living dinosaurs, they can live up to 100 years of age, and they've been around for about 240 million years! They can go without food for a year and can stay underwater for up to two hours because they have the ability to reduce their heartbeat to just four beats per minute! When the eggs are laid, the crocodiles within the egg have no gender; the temperature at the time that the egg hatches determines the gender of the hatchling. We were amazed by how much he knew about the crocodiles!

He also told us a lot about the wild flowers, such as the Lady of the Night, which blooms only at night and emits a scent which attract butterflies to pollinate it. Overall, we had a blast on the boat and enjoyed our tour. Totally worth it!

After our excursion, we ate at Los Cocodrilos, another restaurant with Costa Rican cuisine. I ordered arroz con pollo, which, along with the casados, seems to be a very common specialty in many Costa Rican restaurants. It was amazing, and for the most part, everyone else seemed to enjoy their food. Gabi had finished her food, but really wanted to try the fried fish (an entire fish). The food later came out, and it was pretty big...many people shared the fish. Someone said that it was good luck to eat the eyeball of the fish, so Alex decided to try it out. She had no facial expression as she first bit into it, but was soon very disgusted once the eyeball popped in her mouth. Ewwww...

Once we were done at the restaurant, we went to the souvenir shop outside, then immediately headed back to the hotel for practice at the tennis courts. We had about 10 minutes to change into our practice clothes, grab our towels (so that we could return them along the way to practice), and leave. Some people had to go to the mini-mart to stock up on water before practice (the mini-mart closed at 5 PM), but as soon as they exited the store, it started pouring. Thankfully, it stopped, and we were able to warm up and play soccer-tennis...one of my favorite games! :)

After practice, we didn't have that much time to shower and leave for Jaco Beach and dinner! For dinner, we ate at a restaurant called Wishbone. I had eaten there before, but this was the first time for about half of our team. There was a free beans/chips/guac combo appetizer which was devoured in an instant. We paid for our food, strolled down the main street in Jaco Beach one last time to find ice cream and to look for last-minute ideas for souvenir shopping, then left to go back to our jungle hotel home.

We were exhausted from the long day, and Brian ordered us to hit the sack early in order to rest up for our game the next day, to which we gladly obliged. We are really excited to play the Costa Rican national team again, and hopefully finish our trip with a clean 3-0 record!



SHELBY WONG
Senior - Danville, CA

Monday, July 25

Prior to our second game against the Costa Rican National Team, many of us were dreading the long drive back to San Jose from Jaco Beach. However, with the drop of temperature and humidity, as well as the presence of a slight breeze, the location of our game provided more than ideal conditions! Within seconds of seeing the field, the real grass was extremely welcoming, reminding us much of the short, perfectly groomed grass that covers our home stadium.

Our game began at 11 a.m. sharp. It started off a bit slow, although once we got into our groove, the game began to run a bit more smoothly. With our past game in mind, today's match really was a turning point during our trip. Our team seemed to be working more together, helping each other out on the field, communicating more as well as providing support throughout the game.


The first goal came in the first half when Alex Leary got one-on-one with the keeper, she was able to pull it back to Courtney Capobianco, who had a better angle to tap the ball in the back of the net. The second goal also came in the first half when Alyssa Newcomer had a shot from the right side, the goalie deflected the ball to Alexa Enlow, who was able to knock in the rebound.

We had our 2-0 lead going into the second half, but had a minor slip up on a free kick that cost us a goal. There was a miscommunication, as the ball flew past several defenders and in to the far post. We finalized the win, at the very end of the game. I was able to get a cross from the right side to Alex who was able to finished the opportunity to make the final score 3 to 1!

For lunch we stopped at an authentic local restaurant on the side of the road. There was everything from casados con pollo and carne en salsa, to empanadas and arroz con pollo. On several people's dishes, they served cow tongue, which several girls were brave enough to taste. Personally, I thought it tasted like just a piece of steak, but it definitely had a different texture. In observing the specimen you could see the tastebuds on the edges; and taking any more than a very tiny bite could very possibly made me sick. The best part of our meal were the delicious agua naturales. The most popular were the agua naturales de sandia (watermelon) and de pina (pineapple). They were fruit flavored ice juices that were incredibly refreshing after our hot and sticky game.

On the ride home we took the scenic route due to the freeway being closed for a national holiday. Along the way we saw many animals such as: a wild black and white spotted chicken, many skinny white cows with long floppy ears, and even baby chicks at an animal store. We also saw several horses, as well as many old, decrepit houses among outrageously lush landscape. Even though there was so much to see, we helped to make the time pass by playing telephone and the celebrity game on the bus ride home.

To end the day, we experienced something very exciting. We got off the bus to look over a very busy bridge. Below the bridge was a river of dark brown murky water, and along the edges we counted 15 crocodiles. The weather was moist with light rain drops. Once we finally looked past the terrifying crocs, far in the distance was the most beautiful yet mystifying scenery, with a thin layer of fog that gave it a spooky atmosphere. To top it all off the light drizzle became a storm with thunder and lightning!! It was a wonderful experience for all of us to enjoy together in the amazing Costa Rica!!



ALEX LEARY
Sophomore - Folsom, CA

Sunday, July 24

This morning we woke up around 9:30 and threw on some comfortable clothes to wear for the day's activities. Then we went to breakfast at 10:00 and ate fruit (pineapple, bananas, watermelon, papayas), rice with black beans, and then I personally ate a ham and cheese omelette, but there were also pancakes, little cinnamon rolls, and other small pastries. Everything they had there was delicious!

We all met for the bus at 11 and rode to Jaco Beach to go bungee jumping. There ended up being three different options to choose from: bungee jumping, the catapult, and the swing. Every single girl on our team did the bungee jump (along with Brian as well) and then approximately half of us did the catapult. The catapult was about 15 feet off of the ground to start and they put a harness on each person who did it. Then they connected you to two bungee cords that formed a huge V and then hooked your back side to a pole that released you when they pressed a button. Then they held down on another button that pulled the bungee cords tight and in turn raised you so you were no longer standing on your feet. Then they hit the button and you catapulted into the air and most did a somersault backward when they reached the highest point. Then you came back down and flew back up again and you could control if you did somersaults forwards or backwards as you launched up each time. It was so much fun!!

Next was the bungee jump which was pretty scary to just look at. About seven people would go up at a time on an elevator from which you could see out. We stood at the top overlooking a few hotels in Jaco Beach and the actual beach itself. The view was beautiful! However, when looking down, it was pretty frightening because we were so high up there. Then they would select those of us at the top one by one to get harnessed. We had one harness around our waist and one on each of our legs wrapped around our shins. Then you would walk over the bridge when it was your turn and it literally felt like you were walking the plank because you looked down and saw everyone below and the only thing that kept you from falling were the railings on the sides. Then two guys hooked you up to the bungee cords, one just below your belly button and one on each leg. Then they double checked to make sure everything was secure and then you slowly walked through an open gate up to the ledge.


They shut the gate behind you and you had to put your hands in the air. Then the guys shouted "Countdown! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!" and you just had to trust and fall forward. There was a pool down below so you could decide whether or not you wanted to touch the water. Personally I asked for a little dunk and half my body got dunked when I hit the water. It was awesome and the adrenalin rush you got when you jumped was crazy! I loved the experience and was very excited to do it even while standing at the top, I would definitely go again too!

Next we walked from the bungee jump place to the shops in Jaco Beach where we had been the night before. We hung out there for about three hours, shopped and some of us got food. Hayley (Johnson) and I got granizado con dos leches y una bola de helado which was this icee with condensed milk and powdered milk layered in a cup with a scoop of ice cream on top. It was very good!

We all went back to the bus at 5:00 and rode a half hour back to the resort. After that, we relaxed in our rooms and rested for about an hour prior to meeting for practice on the little turf field at 7:00. We warmed up and played some 5v5 to get our legs moving. Afterward we went back to our rooms and showered, then we all met at the same restaurant where we had eaten breakfast for a really nice dinner buffet. There was a wide variety of food including barbecued chicken and steak, fried fish, scalloped potatoes, sliced potatoes, vegetables, white or brown rice with chicken, and a salad bar. For dessert there was this chocolate milk flavored flan, red velvet cake with coconut, and vanilla, strawberry, and cookies n cream ice cream.

By the time we finished eating it was around 10:00, so we just passed out the uniforms for tomorrow's game and everyone was off to bed to get a good night's rest for the next day.



JESSICA WI
Junior - Oakland, CA

Saturday, July 23


Today was the first day settled into our new hotel in Jaco Beach. In preparation for our upcoming game against the Costa Rican National Team on Monday, Brian (McManus) scheduled a double day of practices. Our team woke up bright and early and made the trek across the resort to a small turf field (we couldn't help but wonder if maybe this was the reason Brian chose to stay at this hotel).

We had a pretty good practice despite the humidity which was in incredible for it only being 9;00 AM. After practice we all walked to breakfast. The food was amazing! There was fresh fruit and typical Costa Rican breakfast food including eggs with rice and beans. Needless to say, we were all stuffed after breakfast but ready for the activity ahead of us--ZIP LINING!

After a little break to get ready, we all boarded the bus and made the 20 minute drive to Vista Los Suenos Canopy Tours. We were all extremely excited and soon enough everyone had gotten all of their harnesses and equipment and we heading up a dirt road on a tractor.  When we reached the top, we were given a tutorial on proper zip lining technique, safety, and braking. Then, one-by-one we were sent out flying through the jungle. All of the guys helping us at each platform were all super nice and speedily set us up for the next zip line. Each line was different. On one, we were allowed to go upside-down with our hands and head dangling to face the jungle. On another, you were able to go really fast and on another, you were able to go without hands which caused you to spin around a little while flying down. And when we reached the bottom, there were containers of fresh watermelon and pineapple waiting for us. For me, it was my first time ever going zip lining but I couldn't have asked for a better first experience!

Despite being tired from our fun-filled afternoon, when we got back to the hotel, we had a short amount of time to rest a little and get ready for our second practice. We had a practice filled with playing and again fighting against the humidity. During practice, we attracted a few spectators, which was a little strange considering we usually feel very alone while practicing on the expansive RIMAC field. The people watching came in handy, though, the couple of times we kicked the ball out of the area and they were nice enough to retrieve it for us.

After practice, we had some time to get ready, then all got on the bus and headed for downtown Jaco. When we got there, we were allowed to split into smaller groups for dinner. The food on this trip has never ceased to impress as our dinner was delicious. After dinner we had a little time to shop around and look at the stores but soon it was time to go back to the hotel.

It was an extremely fun day and all of us were able to check off something on our to-do list for Costa Rica. While it seems like we've only been here a few days, we have had so much fun and keep looking forward to what lies ahead on this trip.



ELLEN WILSON
Junior - Santa Ana, CA

Friday, July 22


Today we made the trek across Costa Rica from our hotel in urban San Jose to our "tropical resort" in Jaco Beach.  On our bus ride, we passed a stadium that China donated $3 million towards because Costa Rica helped educate its police academy.  This is ironic because Costa Rica is one of the only countries in the world without an army.  We also passed a crocodile river where we saw a huge croc swimming upriver!

When we finally arrived at our new hotel, we went through a long, narrow, and winding road of vines and bamboo tunnels.  Our rooms are like little bungalows smack dab in the middle of the rainforest.  We began exploring right away.  Some girls went into the Costa Rican ocean, which is in walking distance of our rooms, only to be stung by jellyfish.

The amazing wildlife here gets up close and personal.  While we were eating lunch, we saw wild raccoons and tropical squirrels.  We even saw some wild Macaw parrots in the trees.  But the things we see most often are these giant iguanas and lizards that look like they're straight out of Jurassic Park.

One of the coolest things about Costa Rica is that there are soccer fields and goals set up all over the place!  There is almost always soccer on TV and everyone is happy to hear that we share their love of the sport.  Even though there is a language barrier, we relate to the Costa Ricans through our love of soccer.  It's like a language in and of itself.  It's nice to know that something we've dedicated so much of our lives to is so universal.

Our biggest adventure of the day was our hike to a neighboring beach. Along the way, we collected cool shells and pieces of coral.  We even found a lobster head and a puffer fish!  At the end of our hike, we all decided to go in the ocean which was warm and had sand as soft as powdered sugar.  We even convinced Brian to join us, although he cannot swim. It was pretty entertaining to watch him take a couple of waves before he got the hang of it.  And, well-Brian no likey.

As the sun set, we made the long journey back to our rooms and met yet another surpise-fireflies! It was the perfect end to our day in paradise! ¡Pura Vida!


LISA BRADLEY
Class of 2011 - Martinez, CA

Thursday, July 21

Today started off like any other day, going to breakfast at Denny's. However, when Sarah McTigue, Annie Wethe, and I got back to our room, Sarah entered the bathroom to brush her teeth and as she entered let out a screeching scream. Annie Wethe, who is the brave one in our room, rushes over to evaluate the problem. There was a COCKROACH on our bathroom sink. It was big, brown, and mean looking. Being UCSD students we tried to quickly figure out how to remove the cockroach from the bathroom without killing it because we didn't want to hear OR see the crunch. We grabbed a cup and paper and returned to the bathroom and the cockroach was no where to be found. McTigue and I were on edge the rest of the day.

After breakfast we had a "walk through" since the team had a game at 3PM. We warmed up on the tennis court and then split into two teams to play "soccer tennis." Soccer tennis is a game where the server stands where the tennis server would stand and kicks the ball over to the other team. The ball must bounce once and only once on the other side when the ball is served. Each player is allowed one touch on the ball with a minimum of two passes before the ball can be sent over. The object is to get it over to the other side. Being the competitive collegiate athletes that we are, things got a little heated in a fun way.

We had a bunch of time to kill between our walk through and the game. Most people spent it eating Subway and relaxing in their air-conditioned hotel rooms trying to find a TV show in spanish. When we arrived at the field, our initial reaction was, "this field is huge and it is incredibly hot and humid here." It was a beautiful turf field located in the town of Heredia. The stadium is where the town's Division 1 soccer team plays.

The team played the U20 Costa Rican national team in game one of the trip. The beginning of the first half was a little shaky as it was their first time playing in a few months. The score at half time was 3-0, despite the level of play. The first goal Izzy (Pozurama) trapped a beautiful cross in front of the goal and slotted it in. The seconnd goal Alexa Enlow finished with her left foot in the upper V. Let it be known that that shot was her first touch of the game. Alexa also scored the third goal of the game back heeling it past the keeper. The Costa Rican girls put up a good fight and were quite physical. They couldn't seem to get much started on offense. The second half was not much better on our side. However, we did score a fourth goal. Gabi (Hernandez) intercepted a bad pass from one of the Costa Rican defenders and was able to put it way. One of the girls on the Costa Rican team plays for a French Champion's League team and scored her team's first goal. They were able to capitalize one more time by finishing a cross from the right side. The final score was 4-2, UCSD winning. Although we won, it was definitely an ugly win. But we will take it. The team can only improve from here and they have two more games on this trip to prove that.

At night in our hotel, there was karaoke. Let's just say that our team took full advantage of that opportunity by singing "Don't Stop Believing", "Bye, Bye, Bye" and "La Bamba." The other karaoke participants took it very seriously, with some being extremely talented. Some of the men were really into singing old English love songs, which surprisingly, our coach, Brian McManus, knew the words too. There was one woman from Italy who thought she was very talented (her friends were), but in reality her performance was below average. Hayley Johnson and Alex Leary definitely took the cake with their "La Bamba" act. It was complete with dance moves and audience participation. We had to represent USA and UCSD well, and they did just that.




MARY McWALTERS
Sophomore - San Diego, CA

Wednesday, July 20


Today, we woke up as usual and had our complimentary breakfast at the Denny´s attached to our hotel. Then we drove to the Costa Rica National Team´s training facility to have our first practice. Much of the compound was new and under construction in order to update the fields, locker rooms, and offices. Much of the facility was renovated in 2009 with the latest addition completed in 2010. They were in the process of building a mini-hotel to house teams that come to play the national team here in Costa Rica.

We had a good practice which consisted of our normal routine. The management team was very friendly and accommodating as they provided us with energy drinks and water during our session. Once practice was over, the head of the federation gave us a quick tour of their new female and male locker rooms, two brand new grass fields, weight room, team room, pool, hot/ice baths, and futsal field.

It was something straight out of a sports movie, just as you would imagine it to be. After practice, we headed into downtown San Jose where our bus driver gave us a tour of the city and all of its beauty. Amanda Esquivel, one of our Triton alumni who formerly played in the Costa Rica National Team program, graciously translated for us. The city, like most other Latin American cities, is built around a church and a central park. The streets have no street signs; however, the locals know that the horizontal streets are avenues and the vertical roads are streets.

The city is somewhat Americanized. On one corner we would see a Taco Bell and on another we would see an ancient Cathedral. The country of Costa Rica, as the bus driver explained, celebrates its independence around September 15. They celebrate in particular one man named Juan Santamaria who was considered the leader of the independence. After a small tour through some of the main roads, we were dropped off to explore.

We stayed together most of the time and went down this one alleyway with a bunch of tiny markets where vendors were selling everything from bags to candles to tiny glasses to key chains and t-shirts. It was great to interact with people who could speak little-to-no English. We had to use other forms of communication including hand gestures and body language.

After, we shopped while walking to get some lunch. We sat down at a restaurant on the corner of the street nearby and proceeded to have another fantastic meal that most people on our team agreed topped our amazing meal from the night before. Instead of buying individual meals, the waiter brought out a huge plate of food that we all shared. It included- pork, beef, chicken, corn on the cob, rice, beans, salsa, tortillas, plantains, and grilled vegetables- all sitting on top of real banana leaves. It was fabulous. Let´s just say that we didn´t need dinner or dessert after that lunch.

Then, our bus driver picked us up and brought us back to the hotel where we took showers and hung out by the pool. While we were waiting for (Head Coach) Brian (McManus), we went to a conference room and played games. Even Jonesy (Assistant Coach, Kristin Jones) and Amanda joined in on the fun. When Brian arrived, we had a short team meeting in the lobby regarding the game for the next day and our schedule to follow. We all went to bed to get a good night sleep in preparation for the next day.


GABI HERNANDEZ
Junior - Altadena, CA

Tuesday, July 19


After a long day of traveling we finally got to enjoy a full day of Costa Rican adventures.  We started off with a complimentary breakfast at the Denny's connected to our Best Western (really authentic stuff, I know).


This was followed by a trip to the La Paz waterfalls which are part of the Costa Rica National Park and absolutely amazing! Jonesy (Asst. Coach Kristin Jones) made friends with one of the travel guides at our hotel and he helped us out with transportation and coordinating the expedition.

After about an hour drive up a beautiful green mountainside we finally got to the La Paz waterfalls where the fun finally began.  We started with the monkeys which were super energetic and cute but not so friendly all the time, followed by a huge, two-storied room filled with hundreds of blue, black, yellow, and brown butterflies.

Although Lisa (Bradley) and Jonesy were horrified by the beautiful bugs, the rest of the team spent about 20 minutes impersonating trees and plants so that the butterflies would land on us.  After a lot of screams by Lisa and awesome pictures for the rest of us we headed to the main event-the waterfalls, five of them to be exact.  Each and every one was huge and stopped us in our tracks.  We took a great team picture in front of the biggest waterfall I have ever seen and Alexa (Enlow) and I decided to take a short cut by jumping off the rocks to the sand instead of climbing down.


But seeing as we are soccer players and not long jumpers we basically drenched our bottom halves with water and dirt.  There were four more waterfalls just as breathtaking.  When the majority of our cameras were out of batteries we took a shuttle back to the main lodge to head to the aviary where we saw toucans, owls, hummingbirds, parrots, ducks, and so many more that were all within an arms reach if not flying right at our faces. 

We then faced our fears and headed towards the snakes which, although caged, were still scary especially when you read how venomous each of them was.  In the middle of trying to find a camouflage snake, Jonesy ran over to tell us that the Jungle Cats area was open.  We saw mountain lions playing, bobcats sleeping, and then finally THE JAGUARS!

This was undoubtedly the highlight of the whole day.  About seven of us had fallen behind and got to experience something that we would have only expected to see on Animal Planet.  The two jaguars, Saba and Torito, were a male and female that were part of a very important project.  While watching the jaguars we ran into a man who told us that he was a biologist there waiting for one of the jaguar's keepers to come feed the animals so that he could record the female's mating call.  Why you ask? Because apparently there is a male jaguar suspected of terrorizing the local farmers by eating the little livestock they have.  The farmers wanted to simply get rid of the problem by killing the jaguar. The biologist, however, decided instead to attempt to capture the jaguar by playing the recorded mating call of Saba in order to lure the male to a new location. 

So, this is where the fun begins.  The biologist and jaguar keeper went to the back of the cage to feed the female while we watched through the glass on the opposite side.  It is amazing how simultaneously terrifying and amazing the whole experience was.  The female, Saba, was apparently very hungry by the growls she was giving the zookeeper who was taunting her with the huge slab of raw chicken in order for the biologist to record her growl.  And every few minutes she would sprint over to us standing on the opposite side of the glass to attempt to pounce on us and attack thinking we were going to take her meal.  After about 30 minutes of pure astonishment at the power of these animals we finally realized it was time to head back. 

There was one problem, however....the rain.  It was pouring down like cats and dogs and we knew it wasn't going to stop so we WO-manned up and sprinted about half a mile up hill through a flash flood, rain, and lightning carrying all of our stuff with not a rain jacket in sight! It was the most fun, tiring, unforgettable experience of my life and we got a GREAT picture of all of us completely drenched from head-to-toe.

Surprisingly, our bus driver let us on where he then shuttled us to a local restaurant for the most delicious, authentic food any of us could have asked for.  The people were so nice and between the rice, beans, plantains, potatoes, soup, cabbage, and ''ternera'' (slow-cooked beef), every morsel of food was scraped off each plate.  Finishing with an amazing cup of Costa Rican coffee and homemade hot chocolate, we headed down the mountain back to the hotel to end our night with hot-tubbing and relaxation.  The first day was by far the best start to the trip we could have ever imagined and now with high expectations we look forward to a trip to the city, soccer games and so much more!!!!




Annie Wethe

Senior - Los Alamitos, CA

Monday, July 18


Wow, what a day of traveling.  Everything went smoothly, no hiccups, and we were all pretty happy campers the entire time (because we were on our way to COSTA RICA!)  But upon arriving in Mexico City, which is where our layover was, it was immediately clear that we were in a foreign country, most abundantly demonstrated by the language barrier.  For example, we had a little time to journey to the food court, where Lisa (Bradley) tried her hand at a little bit of Español.  However, she found that her fluency was a tad rusty, got rather flustered, and turned that unique Lisa Bradley Red, sending the cashier into fits of laughter.  No worries though, we all managed to acquire food through an assortment of Spanglish charades and pointing. 


We're really lucky that we have three fluent speakers Spanish speakers on our team though. We managed to get the soccer balls from Los Angeles to Mexico City just fine, but as we were boarding our plane to San Jose, Costa Rica a flight attendant informed Lisa (apparently she's a magnet for these issues) in Spanish that our balls were too inflated and could not be loaded onto the plane for fear that they might explode.  Again, there was an entertaining display of multi-lingual interpretive dance until Gabi (Hernandez) stepped in and figured out what was really going on. 


Language barrier #3 appeared as we were boarding the bus that would take us to the hotel; the man who kindly loaded all our bags came onto the bus and said to me, "I work for team." I, thinking that he must be our driver, simply nodded my head and said, "Okay."  So he repeated, "I work for team..." so I just kept nodding my head, not sure what to do, and then he began speaking in rapid Spanish to me.  I'm not entirely sure what happened in that two seconds that felt like

five minutes of silence on my end, but I imagine that my eyes widened and glazed over, and possibly I went a little slack-jawed, similar to what might occur if someone were to explain to me the intricacies of buying and selling stocks for 12 hours.  Somehow I managed to snap out of it, and Izzy (Pozurama) came to the front to help sort things out.  It turns out that he does not "work for team," but rather he "works for tip.

"Oh. Here." I handed him some money. "Gracias."  And then he got off the bus and began walking away.  Wait, isn't that out bus driver??  Luckily there was no need for panic, as our real bus driver was standing at the back of the bus, but boy was I wishing that I had kept up on that Spanish I took in high school.


But all's well that ends well- we arrived at the hotel safe and sound, checked into our rooms, and got ready for our first day of endless adventures.  No matter where we go, with this group, you know it's going to be interesting!


¡Pura vida!




Annie Wethe

Senior - Los Alamitos, CA

Sunday, July 17


Today is my birthday, so naturally I thought that the U.S. women's national team would be winning the World Cup for me (and obviously giving me a shout out in the awards ceremony).  Unfortunately, though the effort was valiant, that's not quite how it turned out.  However, I'll still be celebrating my birthday tomorrow when I leave with my UC San Diego teammates for Costa Rica, and I can't even begin to describe how excited I am.  As one teammate so aptly put it, "It's like picking your best friends and saying 'okay, let's go on a trip!'"  We haven't decided exactly which fun activities we'll be doing, but there's been a lot of talk about hiking, possibly ziplining, and definitely taking time for a beach day.  Oh, and playing a fair share of soccer and getting a feel for the culture of Costa Rica too.  Thanks in great part to the help of former teammate Amanda Esquivel, we were able to schedule a pair of games against the Costa Rican national team, as well as their U-20 national team.  I know we have our work cut out for us, and I can't wait for the adventures to begin!