PHILADELPHIA – The Saint Joseph's women's lacrosse team embarked on a 10-day tour of Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia from May 30 through June 8, with one exhibition game against a European Select Team on June 6 in Meda (Milan province). The international trip marked the first in the program's 25-year history.

Guided visits included Zagreb city centre, Pula, Venice, Milan, and Como, while a sightseeing opportunity was set in Piran.

Blog entries were provided from each of the 10 days of travel, posted below.

Day 1 / May 30 / Bridget Cerciello
Today is the day the Hawks go flying into Croatia! We began our journey at Hagan Arena at 11:30 a.m., went over important team rules, and departed for Newark Airport to board our flight. The anticipation grew as everyone double-checked for their passports and charged their phones for the final time. At the airport, everyone got their last meals in the U.S. (most picked Wendy’s, obviously) and stocked up on snacks for the flight. We’re hoping for lots of movies, sleep, and outlets on the plane! Next time you hear from us, we’ll be in Croatia! Doviđenja za sada! (Goodbye for now!)

Day 2 / May 31 / Kristen Kelbon
“Expect nothing, be ready for anything” is a mindset that Coach Kahoe has engrained in us over the past four years. Today, when we arrived in Zagreb, Croatia, our entire team was faced with yet another challenge that we were not expecting: our luggage was left in Heathrow and never made it to Zagreb. Clearly, our luggage wanted to be British for the day (@Liv). Nevertheless, our team kept a positive attitude, and we were so excited to embark on this journey and explore abroad.

Well, the day must go on, and so it did! We headed to the city center of Zagreb for a walking tour throughout the plaza. We went to St. Mark’s Square, home of the Croatian Parliament, government, and a beautiful cathedral. Although our hands were empty, we couldn’t help but smile the day away. We grabbed our first Croatian lunch and were pleasantly surprised that our 75 kuna meal was really only 11 U.S. dollars! Our tour guide walked us up and down the cobblestone streets as we chased the sound of music coming from the local musicians. Before we knew it, we were dancing in the streets with a one-man band, completely forgetting that our luggage was still having a cup of tea in London. Although we were off to a bumpy start, we made the most of our day and are looking forward to the experiences to come!

Signing off!

Day 3 / June 1 / Taylor Newman-Farr
Boc! (Hi!)

Today was a jam-packed, sunny day. We started with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of eggs, potatoes, porridge, and sausage. Today was the team's day to do community service! We were split up into two groups, and I was in Group 2. Group 1 went to a shelter called Caritas, where they folded donated clothes for all ages and put together food baskets. Group 2 began its day in Center City of Zagreb, where we walked around the city and shopped. We experienced the culture on the streets and had some great homemade ice cream! Next we met up with the whole team and had lunch at whichever place we desired. A group of us had lunch at a place called Village Tavern; I had the gnocchi with prawns (shrimp) and zucchini and it was ukusno (delicious). Next, our group went and did service at a local children's disability home! It was such an amazing experience to hang out and have great interactions with the kids! Their ages ranged from 5-18 years old. They were so sweet, and we enjoyed being in their presence! Lastly, we met up as a group again and had dinner at the Hotel, which consisted of chicken with noodles and green beans and a delicious raspberry cheese cake with ice cream!

It was so great for the team to give back. Not only did we donate to the shelter, but we also interacted with so many people from Croatia, which enhanced our experience! Can't wait to see what our day is filled with tomorrow!

Day 4 / June 2 / Michaela Cassidy
Hi everyone! 

This morning the Hawks woke up bright and early for our 8:00 a.m. departure for the day’s adventure to Pula! We had breakfast at the hotel and then quickly got on the bus. Some girls caught up on their sleep while others were chatty Cathys! :) On our way to Pula, we stopped in a town called Primišlje where we went river kayaking in the Mreznica Canyon! 

Our instructors were so incredibly nice and walked us through all of the guidelines before we paired up and hopped in the river. The water was so clear and beautiful! Everyone was excited! Instead of just floating down a smooth flowing river, we went through some rapids, small drops, and the best part: we jumped off a 17 meter (55 feet) waterfall!!! Even those scared of heights participated...and it was incredible! An adventure of a lifetime!! 

After river kayaking we left for Pula, which was about a four-hour bus ride to our hotel. Everyone was in awe by the views on the way from Primišlje to Pula. Once we checked in, we went straight to dinner in the dining area of the hotel. I must note that the hotel views are beautiful! Pula is known for its beach-lined coasts, which you can see right in the backyard of our hotel! Our hotel had so many fresh options for dinner (something you wouldn’t expect in just any hotel). The rest of the evening was given to us to prepare for our big day tomorrow in Pula! Time to get some sleep for another amazing once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Day 5 / June 3 / Laura Lasprogata
Zdravo! (Hello!)

Today we woke up to a beautiful view of the Croatian coast and headed down to breakfast. We started our day off with an amazing buffet provided by the hotel with a beautiful arrangement of fruit, pastries, eggs, and many other options native to Croatia. My favorite was the fresh honey straight from the honey comb.  

On our way to Pula, the bus ride was filled with laughter as the one and only Liv Tevis sang her song about our international trip thus far to the tune of Since You’ve Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson. 

When we arrived in Pula, we were greeted by our tour guide, Barbra. We learned all about the town’s history, including the fact that Pula is 3,000 years old. My favorite part was the Arena. The arena was massive, and it blew my mind to know that it had been much larger in the past, but all the stones had been stolen by the people of Pula. We also saw a structure that was once underground and had been later revealed when they were building a parking garage and another building that was built in 0 B.C. After the tour, we had time to browse the quaint historic Croatian town for lunch. For lunch, we dined at an Italian restaurant but had the Croatian novelty octopus.

After lunch, we departed for the beach. As we arrived on the beach, we were greeted by Tea (Tay-ah), Lea, and Lucas, who would lead us on a kayaking excursion in the Adriatic Sea. We layed on the beach, which was not sand, but rocks, and later snorkeled (watch out for the sea urchins and jellyfish!). The water was beautiful. After spending some time on the beach, we headed out on kayaks where we traveled to an amazing cave. The sights in and around the cave were super cool. We may play lacrosse, but that doesn’t mean we can paddle. The kayaking to and from the cave proved to be a very good workout!

We then headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner. We ate at the hotel, which was also a buffet. 

Doviđenja za sada! (Goodbye for now!)

Day 6 / June 4 / Francesca Donato
Today was the last day we woke up in Croatia. We started off our morning with our usual buffet breakfast at 9:00 a.m. and departed the hotel at 10:00 a.m. to start our journey to Venice, Italy. Journeying to Venice, our plans were to make a few stops in Piran, Slovenia along the way. We did hit a few bumps in the road - when we arrived at the Slovenian boarder, we had to all get off the bus and individually get our passports stamped. It put a dent in our time to get to Piran, but on the bright side, our passports have more decoration to them.

When we arrived in Piran, we had to say goodbye to one of our travel guides, Domina. She said a few touching words to us about our shared time together, and we gave her a huge group hug then parted ways. For lunch, a few of us went to Riviera Adriatic, which had a beautiful view right on the water. We sat outside as I enjoyed a frutti di mare dish as others indulged in muscles, calamari and risotto.

After lunch, we continued our journey to our next stop, Škovjan Caves Park. We took a tour through these underground caves that were discovered in 1910 but are actually millions of years old. The journey was special because we were unable to take pictures within the caves, so we had to soak up all the scenery for our eyes only. But, if I may say, I don’t think pictures could have even captured the size and beauty of these underground caves. It was also a great exercise as the tour inside the caves consisted of 500 steps up, down, and around the terrain of the caves. When the tour was over, you could either take an elevator or walk another 500 steps to get back to the busses. We, of course, decided to take the extra 500 steps to enjoy a little bit more of the scenery and to boost the numbers on our Fitbits.

We end our day with a continued bus ride to our first destination in Italy. We are very excited to get some rest and embark on our exploration in Venice, Italy tomorrow.

Signing off!

Day 7 / June 5 / Paige Diminick

Today, the Hawks visited Venice. We arrived at a large “island” that served as a connector to the Old City. We boarded a motorboat that took us right into the action of the city.

After a little bit of walking around, we went on a gondola ride! What an amazing experience as it’s a quintessential aspect of Venetian culture. It was six people to a gondola, so it was the perfect atmosphere to sit back and relax with fellow Hawks!

We passed by stand after stand of Venetian trinkets and goods. Some of the Hawks even bought some, like leather purses, Morano glass jewelry, and Fedoras (cough, Ben, cough).

After this, we went on a tour focusing on the Plaza of Saint Mark. This tour was different than the others of the trip due to how hectic and busy Venice is. The tour company supplied everyone with ear pieces and miniature radios in order to better hear the guide.

Then, we were given free time to explore and grab some lunch on our own. From what I gathered, everyone focused mainly on the three Ps: pasta, pizza, and prosciutto! I personally had pizza right on the canal, and it was delicious!

After that, we took the same motorboat back to the mainland, where we took the bus to Al Rocol, a Franciacorta vineyard. While some of us were weary of another tour after a long day of walking around, it proved to be super interesting! We got a brief tour of the winery and learned a little bit about wine production. This particular winery produces 70,000 bottles a year and hand picks every single one of their grapes (wow!). Their wine undergoes two fermentation processes, rendering it more similar to champagne than a prosecco wine.

Needless to say, the Hawks had a busy day. But without a doubt, I think I can speak for everyone when I say this day was one of the highlights of the trip!

Ciao, Venice. Grazi for the experience of a lifetime!

Day 8 / June 6 / Rebecca Lane
As we started the day, it was suddenly dawning on us that we only had two full days left of the trip. But, as we headed into Milan, we were determined to pack the day completely with service, sightseeing, shopping, and lacrosse.

Our first stop today was at the “House of Charity.” It is the home to 140 women, men, single mothers and struggling families, a place where people are able to receive the help and the “tools” they need to get back to living independently. We listened to some of the workers explain how the house offers shelter, workshops, water services, and clothes to those who live there, but also those who don’t. Three times a week, they open their doors to homeless people who live on the street or in abandoned buildings or those who can’t afford their water bills and offer them their shower services and clean clothes. It is something that so many take for granted but is a major issue in the lives of these people. So to offer a little bit of help, each player had brought a package of socks, underwear, or both to donate to the house to be used by those who lived there. The ability to shower at any convenience and wash dirty clothes doesn’t register in our minds as an issue, but hearing about the amount of people this house helps in this regard was a truly humbling experience.

With a change of pace, we headed into the city of Milan. As many of us were itching to get our shop on in the fashion capital of the world, we were given the option to head straight to the Versace's, Prada’s and Gucci’s, or go on a guided tour first, then spend the rest of the time shopping.

On the tour, we started at the Sforza Castle, which was first built as a military fortress in the 15th century. We walked across the drawbridge (yes, an actual drawbridge with a moat and everything) and into the front courtyard, which was where all the weapons used to be stored and used by the soldiers. Today it acts as a museum for Michelangelo’s last made sculpture, as well as a space for tourists and locals to walk through and soak up its rich history. Further into the fortress was a second courtyard that used to be where the Sforza family resided. Our guide pointed out that one of the rooms was decorated by Leonardo DaVinci, although it was closed for renovations today, so we weren’t able to see it.

Next on the tour, we were taken to the famous shopping mall Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which was built in the 1850s. The ceiling was made of glass, letting the sun shine down on the extravagantly decorated floors. In the centre of the floor was the crest of the royal family, and surrounding the crest were symbols of the four major cities in Italy, the most famous one being the image of the bull, which represents the city of Torino. It is popular for tourists as there is a tradition that if you spin three times on your right heel, clockwise, it will bring you good luck. The perfect opportunity for a boomerang, all of us lined up to take our turn. (In my opinion, it definitely worked because the forecasted rain held off until after we were finished touring the city).

The next stop was the Duomo di Milano Cathedral. Wow! It is the third biggest cathedral in the world, which is a surprise. How could it not be THE biggest? There is a saying in Italy that if something is taking a long time, it’s like the Duomo di Milano. That’s because the cathedral took 600 years to build. It is also undergoing a “never-ending” restoration process at the moment, as it was made with colorful marble stone that darkens with age. The stone is sourced 100km outside of Milan, so they replace the darkened stone to maintain its beautiful color.

Onto the food. I’m not going to lie, my expectations were high. Growing up, Italian food was always my favorite. And lucky for me, my mum makes the best homemade lasagna in the world, while my dad makes the best homemade bolognese in the world. So the food would have to be extremely delicious in order to top their cooking. Well, sorry mum and dad, but it was. I ordered a spinach ravioli pasta and as soon as I took one bite, I was in love. I forced everyone at my table to try it and we all melted in our seats together in happiness. We topped it off with a shared tiramisu to top off the whole meal. Safe to say, it was the best meal I have had all trip.

Game time. A change of pace from our usual tourist personas as it was finally time to get back to what we do best. But, in true St. Joe’s style, we brought the rain and thunder with us. We had to push back the start time a little bit, but lucky for us, it wasn’t the first time we had to be ready for anything.

We started with a joint warm up with the European select team. Leading a normal St. Joe’s pregame warm up, we were able to show other international players our normal pregame routine. Partner passing was next, and we again intermingled to help teach some stick tricks and stick work routines before the big match.

With a short practice session before the opening whistle, we wanted to show them the type of drills we use back in the states to prepare us for our games in the regular season.

Finally, it was game time.

We were ready. The trip has been focused a lot on service, sightseeing, and immersing in each culture, so we were excited to finally add some lacrosse into the mix.

For some, it was the last pregame speech they would hear from Coach Kahoe. But, as she reminded us, it was time to focus on us and play St. Joe’s lacrosse. And that’s what we did. Every centre draw, we ran in hard and together, fighting for the ground ball and possession. We pushed the fast break in transition to capitalize on man-up situations. When their defense held us out, we made good decisions to work for a good, settled goal. On defense, we were tight on our opponents to try and cause early turnovers.

In the first half, we played international rules, which was a big adjustment for most of the team. Goalies were the only ones allowed in the crease. There was no self-start or free movement. Draws were set up with four midfielders around the circle, with attackers and defenders allowed to run over the line of the whistle. Penny [Green], Steph [Kelly] and I were used to the rules as that is how we play at World Cup and for our clubs, so it was a little fun to make up some fake international rules to prank the girls with.

The second half, we were back to regular college rules but with a few position changes. We saw Kristen Kelbon score an awesome goal off an assist from Catie Vivian... our new powerhouse attacking duo. We had two clean centre draw possessions from our new midfielders in Steph, Fran [Donato] and I, with some quick subs after our three bursts up and down the field. And we also saw returns from Emma [Murphy] and Cammi [Luidens] after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

There were some players on the European select team that had flown into Italy just for the game, and many of them had never played together before. It was hot and humid and they only had 1-2 subs while we had enough to field another team. But, they were the most respectful, friendly, and passionate players I have ever played against.

For our seniors and grad students, this was their last official game as Hawks, and we are so appreciative to have been given the chance to play one more game with them. I think I speak for the whole team when I say that it was one of the most enjoyable games of the year!

Go Hawks!

Day 9 / June 7 / Julia Pash

We woke up today with the bittersweet feeling of knowing we had our last jam-packed day in Europe ahead of us. Excited to explore Lake Como, we ate breakfast and headed out the door. When we arrived at Lake Como, we were immediately taken aback by the immense beauty of the sloping mountains and glassy lake.

Right after we arrived, we hopped on a boat that took us on a tour of the coast of the lake. Our boat tour guide told us all about the elegant villas spotted along the coast, the most famous of which was George Clooney’s villa. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to invite us in. Our guide also pointed out the location of John Legend’s wedding and various locations of scenes from famous movies such as Star Wars, James Bond, and Ocean’s 11. All of these small villas were spotted along the most breathtaking scene of steep mountains that touched the lake almost horizontally. Pictures nor words can do the scene justice.

Our destination on the boat ride was Bellagio, a quaint town at the halfway point of the lake. Once we arrived, we walked along cobblestone paths to a lookout point that allowed us to see another fantastic view of Lake Como. After taking many pictures there, our time in the small city was almost up, so we walked straight back to the boat that took us back to Como.

Once our trip along the lake was over, we split up to take advantage of three hours of free time. Bec [Lane], Corinne [Buttner], and I enjoyed pizza and calzones on the roof of Fontana D’Oro, which gave us a spectacular view of the lake. The food looked just as good as it tasted; Corine’s calzone was in the shape of a chicken! After lunch, we wandered around Como, shopping, eating gelato, and listening to street performers along the way.

We knew our time abroad was almost up, however, the activities for the day were not over! Our final activity of the day and the entire trip was pizza making at Ristorante il Capolinea. There, we were given aprons and hats and put right to work. The chefs showed us how they made the dough and, after a brief tutorial, we made our custom pizzas using tomato sauce and a selection of cheese and toppings. The pizzas were delicious and devoured almost instantly! The icing on the cake of the experience was that we were given official Pizza Making Diplomas. Definite resumé boosters!

Exploring Lake Como was an incredible way to finish our trip!