VU Women win first game in Spain

The Vanderbilt women's basketball team played their first game of their exhibition tour in Spain, defeated a select team from the Valencia area 101-56. Whitney D continues her photo log of the team's trip to Spain.

Whitney D's Photo Journal from Spain

Madrid, Spain - August 17, 2007. The Vanderbilt women's basketball team played their first game of their exhibition tour in Spain, defeated a select team from the Valencia area 101-56. Whitney D continues her photo log of the team's trip to Spain.

The day began with a 20-minute walk to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias near the Valencia waterfront. At an ordinary road game, the morning might include a shoot-around, but when you're on a exhibition tour, securing facilties for practice or shootaround is an iffy proposition.

In other circumstances perhaps the team might have ridden the bus to their morning destination, but Spanish rules governing bus drivers are very strictly enforced. Asking the bus driver to drive the team that early in the morning would mean that he wouldn't be allowed to drive the team to Madrid after the game. Since the weather was great and the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias was within walking distances, the answer was to use their feet instead of the bus.

Fortunately, the walk itself was a sort of sight-seeing tour. For centuries Valencia had suffered period floods of the River Turia. Then in the 1950s, engineers re-routed the river around the city and turned the old riverbed into a public park.

The old bridges, some that are centuries old and some that were built in the 20th century, still stand for pedestrians and cars. In all the park is more than five miles along. Since it's below the level of the traffic, it's beneath the noise of the city traffic. Besides providing green space, it also includes gardens, soccer fields, and playgrounds, making it great place for walkers, bicyclist, dog walkers, and families.

The team's hotel is directly across the street from the "river", and the river ends at the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. So walking there meant crossing the street, going down the stairs to the river, turning left, and walking. (If you turn to the right instead, you can walk to the old city via the river.) In the above photo, the team has already descended to the river bed, so you can see a little of the unique park.

The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias includes five buildings with striking architecture. In the above photo, Ashlee Bridge and Amber Norton are in the foreground, and the palace of the arts is in the background. The complex also includes a science museum with an IMAX cinema, a planetarium and aa laserium, an open-air garden, and "L'Oceanografic", an oceanographic park including an aquarium. The latter was the team's destination.

However, with a game later - and therefore game photos -- more photos of the tourist side of Thursday's activities will have to wait for another day.

The rules did allow the bus to take the team back to the hotel, where they had a pregame meal. Then late in the afternoon, they loaded the bus and headed to the outskirts of Valencia for the game. The gym was part of a multi-sport complex set in a quiet residential neighborhood with apartments nearby.

Inside, the setup of the gym is common in Spain. Seats for spectators are on one side, with a wall on the other. Overhead skylights allow natural light to augment the light in the gym during the daylight hours.

When a team takes a trip like this, there are two main purposes: To help develop team bonding and to get a head start on the basketball season. Up to this point in the tour, because of the scheduling of the games in the latter part of the week, the players have essentially been tourists, so the emphasis has been on the "team building" facet of the tour.

But now it's time to turn the attention to basketball. Head Coach Melanie Balcomb is looking for answers to two main questions: (1) Who's going to step up to provide leadership for the team? And (2) Which players on the team, especially the sophomore class, are ready to step up to assume new roles on the team?

Although the team's usual pregame rituals weren't entirely possible because of not being able to have a shootaround, once they arrived at the gym, they followed their usual warmup routines. In this photo: Amy Malo.

Assistant Coach Kim Rosamond gets her first in-game coaching experience at Vanderbilt under her belt. In this photo, she's on the court during warm-ups.

Ashlee Bridge

Recent graduate Caroline Williams was on the other side of the warmup drills, a new perspective for her.

The starting lineup for the season is up for grabs, but on Thursday night, the starting five were Merideth Marsh, Jen Risper, Liz Sherwood, Jessica Mooney and Tina Wirth.


Merideth Marsh guards Elisa Aguilar, one of the two players from the Spanish national team who were part of the select team. The other was Ana Montanana, the valenciana who helped arrange the paella dinner at the beach the night before. Elisa is a friend of Anna's, and Anna invited her to join the team from Valencia for the game.

Jen Risper and Liz Sherwood

Meredith Marsh drives to the basket. When she wasn't in the game, Jessica Mooney took over point guard duties.

Jen Risper scores a couple of her nine points for the game. If the uniforms look like the same ones they wore during pre-trip practices, that's because they are. Teams from the USA often wear their practice uniforms on tours like this partly because of the uncertainty of laundry facilities. Damage to a practice uniform isn't as costly as damage to a game uniform.

Lauren Lueders scored nine points in the game.

Tina Wirth scores two of her 22 points on a fast break. Anna Montanana, the team's hostess Wednesday night, probably doesn't smile often when an opponent scores, but it looks like she did this time.

Fouls sent Amber Norton to the line twice in quick succession late in the game, where she sank three of her four free throw attempts.

Yes, it's true that officiating in Europe is different than in the USA, but when Liz Sherwood got hit in the face, the refs whistled the foul and sent her to the free throw line for two shots. She finished the game with a game-high 23 points.

After the game, the teams formed the traditional handshaking line, and Anna said goodbye to her new friends from the USA.

After the game, the team had post-game pizza on the bus, leaving Valencia around 10 p.m. Darkness prevented the team from seeing the wind turbines on La Mancha that have replaced the windmills from Don Quixote's era. But it was possible to feel the change in air pressure through the popping in your ears as the bus ascended to central plateau on the way to Madrid, arriving around 2 a.m.

Friday morning in Madrid was partly cloudy, with cool air that felt like an October morning in Tennessee. The team's hotel is located right on Gran Via, right in the heart of the city, within easy walking distance of the Puerto del Sol and many other well-known landmarks in Madrid.

Originally, a tour was planned for Toledo, but it was decided that instead there would be an "on your own" day to let everyone on the tour explore the wonderful city of Madrid at their own pace - or to catch up on some well-needed sleep.

Late in the afternoon, it will be time for basketball once again when the team plays a traveling team from Chile, that by coincidence also happens to be in Madrid.

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Photos copyright 2007 by Whitney D for

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