Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wrapping It All Up

Hello to all the Whitman friends and family back home and elsewhere. It is on the final eve of the 19-day adventure that I write to you all to bring the trip together. I've been behind on posting so I'll do a quick recap of the last few days.

On Friday we traveled to Stonehenge. Baker Conte put himself in the front-running for MVT (Most Valuable Tourist) for the trip by organizing a coach through the same company that had provided travel for us beforehand, so we were able to see the rocks at a much cheaper rate.

Stonehenge is interesting in that it's one of those things that almost everyone has seen pictures of by the time they're our age, so the experience itself of being there is not perhaps as visual, but maybe more sensory, an intangible feel you get from being at the site. They give you an audio tour as you walk around. There's still great mystery surrounding the stones, which stand on top of an expansive low-cut grass plain. Sound dissipates into the surroundings, almost as if the rocks absorb the network of observations and conversations around them. Alex Barsher hit it off with a local Druid magii and nearly joined her cult, had we not snatched him away at the last minute.

Saturday was another two-game slate. Each game on this trip has tested the depth of our roster a little more than the one prior, due to the inevitable fatigue and knocks that occur over the course of so many games in such a short period of time. The younger Whitman group kicked off at 1 against the Clevedon Academy team with only 12 players suited to play. Starting at forward was goalkeeper Niko Contos, who evidently has spent many hours training his arms to get bigger but not how to move while running. Niko showed flashes of potential, but was unable to register a shot on frame, though he smiled frequently. The second half gave keeper Stuart Ellsworth an opportunity to shine, and it was clear that it wasn't his first rodeo. Displaying deft touches, pirouettes, and other graceful maneuvers of his heavily built frame, Stuart scored perhaps the goal of the tour in the 89th minute with a rocketed strike from 25 yards into the upper right corner of the goal. Stuart displayed his patented goal celebration to the adoring crowd, tearing his jersey off his chest and shorts, and "riding the pony" around the entire field while shouting "Yippeeekaaaayeeee". Though Whitman would fall by a score of 2-1, Mike located additional depth at the forward position.

The next game would kick off at 3 PM, with only 11 players suited up to take on the Clevedon Town first team. Alex Baker jogged from one field to the other and immediately assumed the outside back position. In total, approximately 150 minutes of playing time for the man of steel Baker on the day, though he clarified "he was just starting to get warmed up" as Mike finally subbed him off the field. Clevedon was an excellent test for the team in that they play in the same league as Paulton Rovers, who you might recall were the first opponents of the tour. Definitely a different class in terms of size and strength, but the Whitman side approached the game with a confidence and playing style that differed from the first match of the trip. Clevedon would go up 2-0, Whitman would pull one back to 2-1 on a goal from Freshman Alex Barsher, Clevedon put another in for 3-1, and Whitman immediately responded to go 3-2 on a goal from Junior Logan Grime. The final scoreline would be 4-2 to Clevedon, but an impressive response and battle from the Whitman side, nonetheless.

Today was the final day to take in the hospitality of Bath, and we didn't pass up the opportunity. A large group of us went into town around noon and broke up into smaller factions to do a variety of things. I spent the whole day with Riley Paul. We started with a cream tea at the Boston Tea Party, where we read our respective novels, Cloud Atlas and the Da Vinci Code, then moved on to the Royal Crescent Park, where we lied in the grass and I finally finished my book. After Riley bought a pair of shoes, we got a burger for dinner to remind us of the homeland.

We leave campus at 10 tomorrow morning. I'll have a better recap of the trip as a whole later but I'm getting pretty tired, my friends. Thanks for following along and please come out to some games this year, it should be a really special season.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

BUS SHENANIGANS!!!!!!!!! ;)))

Pictures/Footage from Weston, Bath, Taunton

Playin' Soccerball in Weston and Taunton

Well howdy gang! Pretty exciting to come atchya with a couple of reports from the past couple days. It feels pretty unbelievable how fast this trip has passed by.

The past couple days have been very game-intensive so we've mostly rested to keep our legs fresh. Yesterday we took on two academy teams from Weston Super Mare, which the more avid readers of this blog may remember was the site of a day trip earlier in the tour.

I'll back up by saying we started the day off with a team run led by Assistant Coach John Fleming. Those of you who don't know John and are more visual readers should know this: he runs like a skinny, bearded gazelle. His paths are often unpredictable, darting through the forest, displaying some of the innate agility from his playing days that led opposing teams to dub him, "Jesus Christ".

John really took us off at a quick clip that threatened to break the timed record for the mile. Amidst grumblings that we shouldn't be running so hard the morning before a game, John held steadfast, always a wry smile across his face. It wasn't until he led us into a clearing that we appreciated the path of our journey.

Right below the Bath golf course remains a stone arched gate, presumably hundreds of years old, that overlooks the entire City of Bath. John had us all find a private spot to stretch and visualize the game ahead, and being able to have such a view in front of us while we got loose was really special.
We then jogged back and had some time to ourselves prior to the game.

The first match was again mostly younger guys, though the center midfield rotated through a lot of the guys who had been playing with the older group. Somewhat sloppy game on a field with a downhill in the corner, but Whitman prevailed 2-0 with goals from Junpei Tsuji and Chris Perkins.

Next game was at 7 30, and roster pickin's were slim. Reid Shaw was trying to play for the first time since nearly losing his ankle 5 days before and Cooper Schumacher was forced to take the day off after feeling a sore groin during warm-ups. This meant that many of the team was performing double-duty from the game prior. For the first half, this was definitely advantageous, in that those who had played earlier already had their heads in the right place. Whitman put together its best half of soccer of the trip, controlling the tempo, moving the ball quickly, with 4-5 chances on goal, but no luck scoring. The second half started similarly, with Junpei Tsuji scoring a nice finish to the right side of the goal, but then fatigue started to play a factor more so than any game before in the trip. Weston went up 2-1 on a questionable penalty call and that scoreline would stand. Save for the last 25 minutes, a game controlled solidly by Whitman.

Post-game Mike turned us on to a sport like bowling called "skittles" that was set up in the Weston Clubhouse. Kudos to Daniel Kim for two straight shots missing all the pins altogether. After a meal at the nearby Tesco the boys were in good spirits.

Today we had another game at 7 in Taunton, but had the morning and early afternoon at our leisure. I went off by myself into Bath for the first time of the trip and sat in the cafe I had found the other day, the "Boston Tea Party". I read more of Cloud Atlas amongst cream tea and wrote a postcard to a special lady. We took off to Taunton around 5 for a 7 30 game and split the game between halves between a mostly younger group and older group. Overall it was the best team performance of the trip. Both groups played quite well and organized one another and were very threatening on the attack. Goals from John Fleming and Riley Paul ensured the final scoreline of 2-0.

Postgame, we gathered for a Whitman Soccer Bus Chamber Choir rehearsal after admittedly poor attendance on the rest of the trip. Conductor Dan Stradivarius Varns led the precocious singers in several spirited renditions of American folk songs and some old chestnuts, for sure. Great potential in this group. Varns described the first rehearsal as "a triumph". Good to see Old Man Varns with a conductor's baton back in his hand. Look forward to concerts later in the fall.

Going to Stonehenge tomorrow. Maybe I'll learn a thing or two about rocks.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Footage from the Missionary Golf Invitational, Pictures from Bath

Match Report: Bath City F.C. and the Missionary Golf Invitational

Following the London posts from yesterday we set out to the biggest local derby of the year, Whitman College vs the Academy Team from Bath. It was a short bus ride, which we all appreciated after a long weekend of travel to Manchester, with some going to London the next day.

Let me tell you folks, this pitch was god damn beautiful. Set on the Bath hillside, we arrived to see the pitch freshly cut to a clean, uniform height, sparkling with moisture after a mid-afternoon shower. There were definitely a few quiet moments of speechless observation as we walked around the pitch, marveling at the care they provide their field. The pitch was also surrounded by stands that have undoubtedly seen thousands of matches, packed with voracious local supporters. There was a sense of history that was pretty indescribable.

Once we got into the locker room, however, it was all business. We warmed up and started the game on the right foot, going up 1-0 in the first 10 minutes after an own goal off a deflection from Cooper Schumacher, who started the match in another step to full fitness. Our midfield has developed a level of trust with one another and confidence that is really heartening to see develop so early in the season. Technical letdowns are still an issue, however, and we are giving away balls across the field that we shouldn't due to lack of care of the ball. Bath City equalized with a goal from the top of the box towards the end of the first half. The second half was somewhat better organizationally, and we knocked on the door for much on the half. The turning point came 6 minutes from full time, when Whitman won a free kick five yards outside the box on the right side of the goal.

At this point, all of you home might be thinking, "Who struck the free kick? Was it midfield maestro Tsuji? Left-footed dynamo Mirman? Fresh-faced new acquisition Alex "The Italian Pony" Barsher?" You're all wrong.

Cooly, center back Jack Morgan stepped up and slotted the ball into the near post with a well-struck ball under the wall. All English betting markets simultaneously imploded as the most unexpected of contributors put the Missionaries up 2-1. It was a scoreline that would stand through full time, as Whitman picked up their first win of the trip.

Definitely exciting to get the first win but still an opportunity for much improvement, and we met the morning after to discuss positives and negatives to improve upon. We gathered in the Bath clubhouse post-game and ate some curry before Barsher put "P.I.M.P." by 50 Cent on the jukebox as we all left. Well played, America.

Today was a day off before a grinding slate of 5 games in 4 days, including a doubleheader tomorrow where the team will be split.

This morning, Joe Fleming and his famous leaps and bounds led the team on a light plyometrics session. Joe's looking 67 years young and still squats deeper than Stu and Niko. The afternoon was an opportunity to go back into the city of Bath and explore the town a little further.

We started off by going to the Holbourne House Museum, with a number of classic portraits and artwork from the 17th-19th century, which was cool but in truth only an appetizer to the main attraction of the afternoon, the Missionary Golf Invitational at the 18-hole Bath "Adventure Putt-Putt" Course.

Speculation had run rampant throughout the trip on who was looking in good form prior to the tournament, but in truth it was anyone's guess who would read the notoriously fast Bath greens most effectively. Nate "Quickdraw" Fleming brought the gallery to its feet with a hole-in-one on the second hole, and performed his patented fist-pump pistol shot to the adoring crowd. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in his short game would cripple his blazing start and Fleming would finish 7-over. When asked about his collapse, Fleming attributed it to "putting issues."

 Much was also made of relatively untested golfer Daniel "Soulrave" Khumanga's debut to the pro tour and his unconventional putting style. Daniel experimented with many different grips on the club over the course of the day and eventually settled on a back-hand left-handed reverse grip while putting on his right side. Unfortunately, he didn't hone his skill until approximately the 16th hole, and a number of putts out of bounds, over rocks, and near small children proved to be his demise. Khumanga would go on to finish 20-over. When interviewed about his day on the course in the clubhouse afterwards, Khumanga told the media, "Mulligan. Eagle. Birdie. What are these words? When do I use my driver?" All good questions, Daniel.

The final competition would come down to Kyle "Steady Hands" Flannery and Chris "Shooter" Perkins. Perkins quietly put together a pretty good round of golf while scorekeeping before a now-infamous collapse on holes 15 and 16 where he collectively went 6-over. Meanwhile, Flannery hung tight around the Mendoza Line for the entire round, putting with a frankly casual demeanor as Khumanga's aggravated cries distracted other, less-experienced players. It would come down to the final hole, where Perkins aimed conservatively at the right tunnel while Flannery went for the left, depositing his ball within two feet of the hole. As he sank the final putt, he fell to his knees and was swarmed in a shower of confetti. Accepting the check for $15,000 from Bath Roman Baths, Flannery had only a few words: "I did it for my sister!"

We then went and got a cream tea at a Cafe called the Boston Tea Party, and it was one of the more memorable things I've ever eaten. Phenomenal 10/10 I'll be back soon.

Tomorrow we'll have the aforementioned two games, so I'll try to send out a match report. We've also surpassed 5,000 views on the blog so to celebrate Mike said he's taking a naked lap around the dorm.  See you later folks!

Monday, August 5, 2013

London Pictures and Video

Tower of London

Ride London


"Hold my backpack. I think I can jump it"

Jack Steel

Posing with his Rooster Friend

America is no. 1

Nice finger, friendly lady

The Queen is in there somewhere