Hey Hey Illini Fans!
We're back in action, as we have just returned from an adventure down south to the city of Miami. The old crew met up at O'Hare to begin the trek, along with two new members -- freshman Emily Barretta and assistant coach Mark Denenfeld. We didn't know much about Mark at the start, other than that he could legally drive our Turtle Top (bus). However, throughout the trip, we began to learn a bit about who he was. For example, he was an English major. This became widely apparent as he often corrected are (I mean "our," please don't make me run Mark!) use of the words "me" versus "I" in sentences. So just a piece of advice if you see him at matches...make sure you have your bona fide English on!
Anyway, after about a three-hour plane ride consisting of reading, movie-watching, and doing of the always epic Sky Magazine crossword puzzle, we made it! Unfortunately, we should have used the time to brush up on our Spanish skills, as we were greeted with "Bienvenido à Miami!"
After arriving at the hotel, some of the Illini decided to take a dip in the hotel pool. We also tried to do some synchronized swimming but instead, just realized why we all chose an individual sport like tennis.
For the next two days, we had double practices in the beautiful 80-degree weather (a bit of a change from what we're used to in January in Champaign) with lunch in between. After our second day, we headed down to South Beach for a dip in the ocean. It was so refreshing after a long day of hard work. After we were all tuckered out from swimming, we had a lovely, water-front dinner and headed home.
On the third day of practice, we also had a double day. Afterward, we were all pretty tired and decided to settle in for a movie. We saw the premier of "Gangster Squad," starring Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn. If you enjoy action or mafia movies, we highly recommend it!
Our final day of practice consisted of one practice. Afterwards, we packed it up for a trip down south to the Everglades. On the car ride, we passed tons of interesting wildlife, such as egrets, ibises, anhingas and of course, alligators! Soon, we arrived at Speedy's Airboat Rides. Here, we met our tour guides, one of whom tried scaring us with a live baby alligator. After he realized we were thoroughly freaked out, he let us pet it and see how sharp its teeth were. Although it was only a babe, its teeth sure were intimidating!
Then we were off on our airboat adventure. I personally did not expect the boat to move that quickly, as we were flying through the tiny canals through the Everglades. We soon came across two gators, which we came nervously close to. We asked our guide if he ever named any of the gators he came across. He informed us, "Well, they tend to be called Al...Gator...Middle initial 'E.'" :)
After many 360s in the boat and beautiful scenery, we returned safely to our cars. We went back to the hotel to get a good night's rest before our match against the University of Miami.
The next day was match day. Unfortunately, Miami came out pretty strong and won the doubles point pretty quickly. The Illini regrouped, putting up a better battle in singles, however, still falling short. We then returned back to Illinois and started working hard to get ready for the rest of the season. Ta ta for now...and go Illini!