Women's Squash Returns from Trip to Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM - The University of Pennsylvania women's squash teamwrapped up its visit toAmsterdam over the winter break. The teamtrained and visited various cultural attractions fromDec. 28 to Jan. 5. The following are blog entries written by the women's team, along with photos from the trip.

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JANUARY 3-5 - Courtney Jones '14

Greetings from University City!

Our last few days in Amsterdam were some of the most memorable for all of us! Getting to hit with former world number 2, Natalie Grinham, was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Through learning some of new favorite drills and having the opportunity to get on court with her, we have all been incorporating her skillful tactics and training methods into our respective games. What a great new role model for all of us to aspire to play like!

Our team then split into groups and meandered through the various canals and streets of Amsterdam completing a scavenger hunt that caused us to see new landmarks and even got us to test out new Dutch phrases! Our last stop was the Double Tree Hotel where we all shared a few laughs from our afternoon adventure and enjoyed the beautiful skyline view of the city that the hotel offers.

Next, we all went on an evening dinner/dessert canal cruise. Fortunately, we were able to experience the Lights Festival, an annual winter water festival that exhibits light décor along the Amstel River and throughout the many canals. It was a treat to experience the city from the canals, such a unique aspect of the city!

Our final day was fun filled with shopping “The Nine Streets” comprised of small European boutiques and later squash matches against club members at Squash City. We all enjoyed the friendly environment of Squash City and participated in the unique cultural component of getting to know our opponent after the match. It was fun for us to see how squash is such a big part of these members everyday lives, as we know it will be for all of us for years to come!

For our final dinner, Jack took us to our Indonesian feast to expand our palates where we literally filled the table with an abundance of 50 small plates of authentic ethnic food. There were steamed noodles, rice steam balls, curried chicken, beef and fish kebabs, coconut veggie mix, tofu omelet-- you name it we had it! It was sure a dinner to remember: great food, company, and ambiance!

Unfortunately, due to low fuel levels thanks to some brutal head winds, our flight made a pit stop in the lovely, snow filled Bangor, Maine. The harsh winter temperatures that had blistered throughout the Northeast while we were away rudely awakened us.

The 10-hour trip home gave us ample time to look back on our incredible week and a half trip! This experience was such a special opportunity that brought our team together in endless ways through memories that we will forever remember.

As we turn now to the thick of our Ivy League Season, we will cherish the time we had together exploring a new country and will use this bond as a weapon against opponents to come.

Thank you to Jack and Tony for taking us to Amsterdam, and thank you to Penn Athletics and the Penn Squash Family for making this trip possible! We feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity and can’t wait for more WPSQ memories from the season!

JANUARY 2 - Ailsa Agnew '16 and Carey Celata '16

Groeten from Amsterdam! We started off the rainy morning by heading to the Van Gogh Museum.

There, we learned about how his style changed over the years. The majority of his work consisted of self portraits, landscapes, still lives, and drawings. The museum was bustling as people moved room to room to see his exquisite works! What stood out the most was his use of vivid colors and different brushstrokes. By the time the tour ended, the sun had come out and it was a beautiful day to walk around the city.

For the next few hours, the team separated into groups and explored the city. There, we found cute boutiques and cafés hidden between canals. Some people went shopping and went to the famous Pancake Bakery, while others viewed the sites.

For lunch, while in Leidseplein, we noticed the plethora of languages being spoken around us. It was clear that this city attracts people from all around the world. We then jumped onto the tram headed back to the hotel in order to prepare for our upcoming matches.

At three, we caught our train to Hoofddorp to play our last matches at Meer Squash. They had an impressive showing of club members who were eager to take us on after having lost to us on Tuesday.

We all worked and played hard for two matches. Tommy Berden, formerly top 30 in the world, Dutch number one, and Gilly's manager when he was playing pro, was our host for the week at Meer Squash. He was very accommodating and great at arranging matches for us.

Tonight, Tommy very kindly put together a dinner for us. After, we hopped back on the train and headed back to the hotel to prepare for a big day of training with Natalie Grinham, former number 2 in the world.

Signing off! Over and out

JANUARY 1 - Colleen Fehm '15and Sharon Vongvanith '16

Women'ssquashbrought in the first day of the new year with a walking tour in the flourishing city of Amsterdam, personal exploration, and a memorable dinner to celebrate Hyland's birthday. Thus far, we have incorporated squash in every day of our trip. On the first day of this new year we had the day off from squash, so we took the opportunity as a team to learn more about the culture and historical significance of Amsterdam.

The walking tour of Amsterdam was delightfully hosted by a man named Rolf, favoured and appreciated by many on our team for his sharp expertise, insightful suggestions, and European fashion. Before we began, however, the team made a pit stop to grab some hot chocolate to warm ourselves up before the chilly tour began.

Rolf took us throughout the older parts of Amsterdam, called "Old Centre", to help us understand how the birth of Amsterdam fully began. We began our tour at Dam Square, as pictured in the panorama, and admired the beauty and ornateness of the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace was occupied by Louis Napoleon after Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the Netherlands. Because royals married one another and among the same ruling families, the lack of option and choice, often times, made them hate each other. According to Rolf, the large Royal Palace, containing a massive number of rooms, made Louis Napoleon's marriage acceptable, since he could be at the opposite end of the Palace, away from his wife and her side of the family.

Opposite of the Royal Palace is the National Monument, a large statue dedicated to commemorating the second world war and celebrated on their National Memorial Day. Finally, one of the other highlights of Dam Square is the New Church, right next to the Royal Palace. The New Church is currently not used as a church, though it contains much historical significance.

It is clear that historically, Dam Square was where Amsterdam began to grow and develop it's society and tradition (in addition to its trading ports), crucial to building and sustaining its politics, economy, and relations with other countries.

Rolf also took us throughout other parts of the city to explain how the marsh-like land and poor soil conditions of Amsterdam have influenced the architecture and buildings. In older times, buildings were built using wood due to its lighter weight, but today only two wooden homes (one of which is a bar) remain because they were major fire hazards. Regardless, if we were took look into little neighbourhood and niches of the city, we see illegally built wooden additions to brick homes. The poor solid conditions have also affected the foundation of the homes, causing them to lean left, right, or in front and many need to be eventually be restored to prevent its complete collapse.

Towards the end of the walking tour, Rolf took our team on a ferry to a Theatre Museum, where we had lunch overlooking the water. Once the walking tour was concluded and we painfully said our goodbyes to our wonderful tour guide, Rolf, and then broke up into groups to explore the city on our own. Many of us indulged in apple pie at a very well known cafe or wandered into shops throughout the city.

The end of our day concluded with a wonderful, three hour dinner to celebrate Hyland's 22nd birthday. The food was excellent and the bonding was even better.

Cheers to 2014: a year of exciting travels, new experiences, and strengthening friendships

DECEMBER 31 - Camille Lanier '16 and Hyland Murphy '14

New Year's Eve started off with an intense match against the Meer squash mens team. The match was very close but we prevailed 15-11. [The 12 of us had to play 2 matches each if you're wondering about the tally]. We had a wonderful lunch provided by host Tommy Berden and Meer squash. Everyone fought hard and many girls battled to win 5 game matches.

Following the matches, we learned the Dutch tradition in which the winner of the match buys a sports drink for their opponent. After lunch, we made our way to the famous Rijksmuseum which reopened only two years ago after ten years of renovations. We saw an array of paintings ranging from the baroque to rococo styles and many works by the Dutch masters like Rembrandt's "Night Watch."

After the museum, we stumbled upon an Indonesian restaurant where we shared a delicious dinner (if you're into that sort of food) and toasted the coming of the New Year (and Hyland's birthday)! After dinner and we made our way into Leidseplein to experience Amsterdam nightlife on New Year's Eve.

We rang in 2014 witness to hundreds of fireworks going off in the streets and everyone celebrating!

DECEMBER 30 - Leslie Gill '15 and Lyles Swift-Farley '15

Leslie and Lyles' blogging! We are happy to report that the team just finished up another great day in Amsterdam!

We started the day off on the right foot with a scrumptious breakfast of granola and hardboiled eggs at 8:30. At 9:20, the team embarked on a chilly walk to the Frans Otten Stadion. (Fortunately, no one was run over by a bike.) Regrettably, Natalie Grinham (former world #2 player) would not be able to train with us at today's 10 a.m. session, so Jack would be the one to lead us through some drills and condition games for the morning. Many players were tired from yesterday’s matches, so today was a great opportunity to push through the soreness and improve our tactical game. After a great morning of squash, we took a break to have a delicious Wimbledon sandwiches. For those that haven't experienced a Wimbledon the ingredients are: chicken, cucumber, lettuce, bacon, tomato and egg on whole wheat. Oh, and mayonnaise.

After walking back from the Stadion, the group had a short time to relax before the evening’s activity. At 3 p.m., the group was ready to head off to watch the Olympic speed skating trials for the Netherlands. On the bus, we were greeted by a man with impeccable bone structure, Rolf, who was to be our tour guide for the ride to the KPN Stadion where the trials are held. Rolf provided us with a lot of information about Holland’s history and economy: for example, despite it’s small size, Holland is the 7th largest exporting country in the world!

After a 1.5hr bus ride, we made it to KPN. We ate a quick dinner of schnitzel and proceeded to watch the women’s 5000m trials. Much to our surprise, a 35-year-old mother won the 5000m trials (guaranteeing her a spot in the Olympics) even though most of the competitors were in their 20s. Her dominance over the younger women gave us hope that we have not yet passed our prime!

After the women’s trials, we had a great time watching the men’s 1500km trials. The main “attraction” of the event was Sven Kramer, one of the country’s best speed skaters. Though he did not qualify for the Olympics in the 1500km, he will most likely win 3 gold medals in other distances at the next Games. We had an amazing time at the trials! Thanks, Jack!

At around 8:45 p.m., the team got on the bus and drove back to the CitizenM Hotel. We were all pretty tired from the day’s events, so everyone headed right to bed.

All in all, it was another successful day in Amsterdam! Thanks for reading!

P.S. – Hyland officially turned 22 at midnight! Happy birthday, H!!!

DECEMBER 29 - Yan Xin Tan '16 and Michelle Wong '17

Our first morning in Amsterdam, we enjoyed a nice breakfast at the hotel consisting of delicious fresh-out-of-the-oven croissants and some freshly squeezed orange juice. After that, Jack allowed us a lazy morning in before our matches in the afternoon. We found it really rejuvenating by helping us recover from jet lag and just getting settled in as we prepare ourselves for the hectic coming days.

At 11 a.m., we took a train from Amsterdam Zeid (the station closest to our hotel) to a train station near MeerSquash Club (the venue for our afternoon matches). Some helpful acquaintances gave us a ride from the train station to the club, which was about 10 minutes away.

At noon we found ourselves at the MeerSquash Club ready for our afternoon matches. We were set up with a few matches with the players from the club, courtesy of Tommy Berden (husband of the former world no.2 women’s, Natalie Grinham, also an ex-professional squash player himself and assistant coach Gilly Lane’s manager while he played PSA). The MeerSquash Club has a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Most likely due to the elegant bar set up right in the middle of the courts, acting as a social gathering spot for parents and players alike.

We enjoyed 4-5 matches each against some of the club players and it was really stimulating to get back on court after taking a break during finals and Christmas. Some of the players were very well matched and many of us gained new experiences from their distinct playing styles that differed from our typical game.

After our matches, we took a quick shower and refreshed ourselves back at the hotel before heading downtown for dinner. We enjoyed an exotic Moroccan dinner at a restaurant called “Bazar”. From outside, the place looked extremely nondescript (shady) and we could have walked past it without a second glance, but inside, it was jam-packed with locals; no doubt a famous local spot.

Our stomachs filled with delicious kebabs, we took a stroll downtown to Leidseplein (a famous tourist attraction in the heart of Amsterdam) enjoying the holiday lights and the vibrant culture. There were many restaurants and coffee shops, all bustling with customers. It was obviously a very popular place and undoubtedly attracts many tourists and locals alike. Looking forward to tomorrow’s training session and watching the skating!

Soon, we began to make our way home, satisfied for now with the grand sights of Amsterdam. We arrived back at our hotel by 11pm and retired to our rooms ready for a good night’s sleep and looking forward to taking on Amsterdam again the following day.

DECEMBER 28 - Chloe Blacker '14and Courtney Jones '14

Hallo from Penn Squash in Amsterdam!

After much excitement and anticipation all fall, the Women's Squash team has landed in Amsterdam! We arrived early this morning after a redeye flight where the whole team took up the back half of the plane, and we got off to a great start by arriving to our hotel that is just a short tram away from the center of the city. We settled our things in our modern, chic hotel (CitizenM in Amsterdam City), where it's quite a tight squeeze. Team bonding at its finest! Our rooms, which are more like a bathroom with a bed, have the ability to change colors depending on your mood varying from hot pink to electric green as if we are in our own little disco tech. After calls from other girls on our team, and several minutes of struggling to turn on the shower, we all soon learned we just needed to close cylindrical door completely. We are slowly but surely getting adjusted to the Dutch ways of life!

We then walked over to the Frans Otten Stadion where we passed the 1928 Olympic stadium on our way. We quickly learned that we all need to have our heads "on a swivel" to not only look out for cars, but also to avert from speedy mopeds and bicycles that are not one bit sympathetic and do not yield to pedestrians. We got our first taste of Dutch food at the courts with a heaping "Wimbledon" sandwich comprised of turkey, bacon, egg, lettuce, and tomato- all fabulous ingredients on their own but when they are prepared together, they transform into something magical! Soon after, we all learned that exercise is the number one cure to jetleg as we all felt more awake after our light hit of drills and rallying to get accustomed to the plaster courts that play differently to our courts back at Penn.

Thanks to our handy dandy Yelp app and the Fodor's guide book, we found a wonderful, little, hole in the wall restaurant, Eetcafe Fidelio, just a short walk from our hotel! We are looking forward to hitting the sack in preparation for our tournament tomorrow afternoon at MeerSquash. We have had a wonderful first day and can't wait to play more squash and explore the culture here in Amsterdam!