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Fun on the Isle of Enchantment

Left to right: Kitt Smith, Amanda Bigney, Rachel VanderWall and Sydney Dow sneak away on this trail through the rain forest in Puerto Rico.

Left to right: Kitt Smith, Amanda Bigney, Rachel VanderWall and Sydney Dow sneak away on this trail through the rain forest in Puerto Rico.

Every couple of years the Hillsdale College volleyball team takes a week long get-away to a far-away place to play some volleyball and more importantly, bond and make new memories together.

This March the Chargers traveled to Puerto Rico, where they ate foreign food, saw historic sites, swam in a waterfall in the middle of a rainforest, and worked on sets and spikes in between.

Here are several first-person accounts of that experience from the players themselves, as told to the Hillsdale College athletic department.

Game Time by Ashlee Crowder

It was a very cool experience to be able to play at the Puerto Rico Junior Olympic complex.

It was also cool because even on the ride there we got to see some amazing scenery!

Right when we pulled into the parking lot, there was an enormous pool and people were everywhere, and the first thing I noticed in the gym was the open windows.

There were two pretty big courts and the windows all along the gym only had cages over them — everything was wide open!

Our first game was against the Peruvian National Olympic team and the first thing I said to myself was “wow those girls are tall!” I believe they were only 14 and 15 years old too, and when we watched them warm up we knew we had to bring our “A game.”

The game started and either we were a little shaken up or just not ready but we definitely struggled unfortunately. Eventually as the games went on we picked it up a little bit but still ended up losing the set, 1-2.

Let’s just say that those girls were really good and no wonder they were on a Junior Olympic team.

The Charger women went on to win their next two matches.

El Morro by Clara Leutheuser

One of our free afternoons we visited the beautiful city of Old San Juan, walking up and down the blue cobblestone streets and finding some souvenirs along the way.

A focal point of Old San Juan is the fort, El Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

El Morro is a nearly 500-year-old fortress built to defend the port city that was renovated and strengthened over the years, as seen in the six-meter-thick outer walls and dome-covered sentry boxes, a.k.a. “garitas.”

Clara Leutheuser posing for a shot in Puerto Rico.

Clara Leutheuser posing for a shot in Puerto Rico.

We had fun exploring the fort, from the lower prison levels to the upper grounds, with stunning views of the bay.

Unfortunately for “Gill” (Amanda Geelhoed), we didn’t have access to one of the more secluded garitas down at sea level known as “Devil’s Hideout,” but thanks to the zoom on our cameras we have plenty of documentary evidence.

And, of course, the beautiful Puerto Rican weather cooperated marvelously with our photo-shoots.

It was great to experience a bit of Puerto Rico’s history while enjoying the sun, the company, and some tasty authentic food!

A walk in the rainforest by Sydney Dow

On Friday, our last day there, we had the opportunity to walk in a rainforest and to also swim in a waterfall there.

We didn’t find out until Thursday night that we were going to get to go to the rainforest, and everyone was immediately excited! Hannah (Barrett) was the only one who had been to one before so it was fun new experience to share together as a team.

We met our tour guide at the hotel and we had a 45-minute drive to the start of the trail.

The guide was extremely enthusiastic, and he shared with us mounds of information about the forest and about Puerto Rico in general.

On the ride up the mountain to the trail, we had a few problems!

The road was exceptionally curvy and steep, and we were constantly jerking from one side to the other.

Most of the girls were OK, but Hannah, Rachel (VanderWall), and Apryl (Schmucker) started to feel very queasy.

Apryl put her head on the seat in front of her and just sat there with her head down, but Han and Rach, put lightly, were having trouble keeping their lunch down.

When we finally got to our stop, the girls were beyond relieved!

Brooklyn (Gravel), who also felt a little car sick, solved her problem by sitting on the ground and meditating.

I think we should have taken lessons from her, and Coach and Steph have definitely trained her well.

Our walk on the trail was beautiful!

We were able to see many cool things, but the extent of the exotic creatures we saw
were lizards, frogs, and……a chupacabra! (a legendary cryptid rumored to inhabit parts of the Americas)

Our tour guide thought it was hilarious when Brogan and Ashlee asked if they had any of these mythical creatures on the Island.

Half way through our walk we took a break to swim in the waterfall.

Eating good by Amanda Geelhoed

Puerto Rican food is very similar to Cuban types of food.

It is not spicy but very flavorful.

Clara and I made a pact that we were going to try local food at every meal that we could.

The first night we had dinner on the island we were set free in Old San Juan.

We were going to eat at Fatty’s but they only had 12 chairs so we went to Café Puerto Rico. The most favorite Puerto Rican dishes were Mahi Mahi in Puerto Rican sauce, Grouper in Garlic sauce, fried sweet plantains, and Chicken and rice.

The seafood is so fresh and they always give you huge portions for
a low price.

We went to Chili’s on the next night and they had the same menu that is here in the States.

However, we did get dessert that night, five of them to split.

We finished them in no joke, 2.5 seconds.

I think we could give Kobayashi a run for his money in an eating competition.


About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.


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