Photo by Sara Schmitt

While most students are able to find a semester to escape on a study abroad adventure, athletes are often not so lucky due to their rigorous training schedule, which can keep them tethered to campus training facilities. However, the opportunity has arisen for a few teams at Tech to travel together not only for competition, but also for enjoyment and cultural enrichment in recent seasons.

This past summer, the women’s basketball team took off for Italy with the plan of not only competing in four international games, but also exploring the historical and cultural offerings of a country which two team members, Francesca Pan and Antonio Peresson, call home. The team departed on Aug. 6 to allow the women to finish any summer classes they had been taking and give the team time to return back on Aug. 19 for the beginning of school. Heading into the trip, the women looked at it as a bonding experience while Coach MaChelle Joseph voiced her excitement regarding the ability for the team to travel to a
new place.

The women of Tech learned that just as the culture differs overseas, so does the game of basketball. The ball is a little bigger, the court a few feet shorter and the three-point line significantly closer, along with a 24-second shot clock (unlike the 30-second clock in NCAA women’s basketball), according to ramblinwreck.com. The Jackets practiced the differing aspects of the game to ensure that they could take advantage of their international experience.

The first game of the trip took place in the town of Pordenone, Peresson’s home. The Jackets played Bosnia’s U19 Orlovi Banja Luka, finishing with a 101-31 victory. This was the first official game in which freshmen players had the opportunity to shine, with Breanna Brown contributing 13 points and Kierra Fletcher and Daijah Jefferson earning nine and eight rebounds, respectively. The two teams rematched with the Jackets earning a second decisive victory against the Bosnians.

Competing in Pordenone one last time, the women’s basketball team fought for another victory; this time over a Slovenian team. On the way to an 81-40 win, Zaire O’Neil contributed to the win and led the women with 21 points. Although the competitions took place close together, the team soldiered on and did not let their guard down.

The final game brought the Jackets to Venice, where they played against a professional team, Celje Slovenia, and sealed their international trip with a 60-41 win. This game was the closest of the four, but the Jackets were able to pull ahead towards the end to complete their winning streak.

The trip was not only a culturally enriching experience for the team but also an extension of an international focus that has continued under Athletic Director Todd Stansbury. While last year’s football season opener in Ireland was the big-ticket event, men’s tennis matches in the Bahamas and a men’s basketball game versus UCLA in Shanghai will keep the Jackets on the international stage. If other teams acquit themselves as well as women’s basketball, it could be the beginning of a strong Jackets footprint abroad.