For the two Maine natives on the University of Maine women’s basketball team, the Black Bears’ recent 10-day excursion to Greece was a memorable one.
Under NCAA guidelines, all teams are allowed a foreign trip once every four years.
Maddy McVicar of Calais and Sierra Tapley of Bar Harbor were among the 62-person travel party, which included players, coaches, family members and fans.
From May 11-21, the team visited Athens and Crete, which is Greece’s largest island, along with several other communities. The Black Bears played three games and also visited a school and conducted a basketball clinic.
“It was a lot of fun. It was nice to see better weather,” McVicar quipped.
It was her first trip overseas, and McVicar said the highlights were simple.
“Just being with my teammates and sharing a great experience … getting to travel the world with a group of girls you spend time every day with,” she said.
“The team bonding is always the best part,” Tapley said. “When we travel, we get to hang out with each other.“
Tapley, who previously had traveled to Barcelona, Spain, said seeing Greece proved to be a valuable history lesson.
“Every day, we’d go on a tour and learn about ancient Greece. It was really cool,” said Tapley, who has a minor in history.
Tapley said there was a sharp contrast between Athens and Crete.
“It was almost like two separate trips,” Tapley said. “Athens, itself, is pretty poor right now. It was crazy because you’d have a modern building next to a building that was completely run down and there would be an archeological site right next to it.”
She said that seeing the abandoned 2004 Olympics stadium was creepy.
Tapley and McVicar said they were surprised that there wasn’t a language barrier, even with the Greek children, as everybody spoke English.
One of the schools the team visited was an American school and several of the children were sons and daughters of diplomats.
McVicar and Tapley said the food was exceptional.
“My favorite was the gyro,” McVicar said, referring to a sandwich which contains meat, usually pork or chicken, cooked on a rotisserie with tomatoes, onions and yogurt sauces in pita bread.
“The fruit was amazing,” Tapley said. “I loved the kiwis.”
UMaine played three exhibition games, splitting with one team and beating the other.
“It was great competition,” Tapley said.
McVicar and Tapley were each accompanied by several family members.
On the last two days of the trip, the players got to venture out on their own. The beach was a popular choice.
“Kira Barra and I each got sunburned on the first day so we took it easy the second day,” Tapley said.
Tapley said the ocean water was clear and warm.
“They were telling us that they had a really hard winter. They said it got down to 40 degrees. They were worried about [losing] their oranges,” Tapley said.
McVicar called the 10 days a memorable experience and both said it will be beneficial for next season because it brought a close-knit team even closer.
The Black Bears will try to win their third consecutive America East championship during 2019-2020.