Cavs follow NCAA conference championship with European play
UVa-Wise Head Coach Meghan Dennehy was approached by a company, which was looking to sponsor a team to play in Europe over the summer — an opportunity, which Dennehy immediately jumped on.
“There’s tons of different companies that offer programs similar to the one that we took,” Dennehy said.. “I’m good friends with the owner of the company and he asked if I would like to do a trip. I said if we do I’d love to go to Amsterdam — that’s kind of been on my bucket list — so he was like, ‘Alright, let’s put together a team.’”
Dennehy and Assistant Coach Courtney Hamm assembled a team consisting of former Cavaliers student-athletes Melanie Reilly, Lauren Donahue and Annie Hanson, as well as current student-athletes Jesse French, Sydney Steinberg, Kristin Gobbi, Jessica Apgar and McKayla Grasham, along with three players from other colleges.
“To go to Europe itself is an awesome opportunity,” Grasham said. ”But to play lacrosse and to play with your college teammates, especially before our senior year, it was an awesome opportunity. It was like home. Being on the field is home. It was amazing knowing that I had my teammates, we had our team there and we just went in with a high head and knowing that we were capable of winning.”
During the 11-day-long trip, the team took in the sights around Holland and Belgium before competing in the Tilburg Cup tournament. They visited the cities of Amsterdam, Bruges, Antwerp and Tilburg.
“In Amsterdam we did a bike tour, and just being able to see all the canals and learning about the cathedrals and everything was cool,” French said, “Then when we stayed in Tilburg, right outside of the hotel was a huge festival that was spread out throughout the street, so that was definitely a highlight just being able to have that right there…It was awesome.”
On the field, the team cruised through the opening rounds of the tournament before facing Team Holland in the Tilburg Cup Championship. Team USA led 4-2 entering halftime, but Team Holland came back to tie the score at 4-4 in the first minutes of the second half. Despite the setback, Team USA rallied to defeat Team Holland 10-6 and claimed the Tilburg Cup.
“We were beating the other teams pretty bad, so going into that final game I think we probably thought we had this in the bag, and [Team Holland] came out to play and they really gave us a run for our money,” Dennehy said. “It was nice to see the transition from killing every team and not having to work too hard, to where we were able to overcome that adversity to be able to win. It kind of made the feeling of winning a bigger accomplishment because we had to work for it.”
Now back home in the United States, the Cavaliers are preparing to defend their conference title when the season starts up again in the spring.
Looking back on the trip, both French and Grasham said that the experience strengthened the bonds between each other and their teammates, and that it will improve the team’s chemistry on the field.
Dennehy said she felt confident that her team would be able to use the summer excursion as motivation to work hard for the upcoming season.
“I think that they’re coming in with a high. You know, we won, we won in Europe, this is awesome, but I think that they’re coming in with a pretty level head that they’re still going to have to work for it,” Dennehy said.
“I don’t think that they expect to have the conference championship just handed to them again. I think that they know they’re going to have to work for it and they’re ready for it.”