Assistant Athletic Director – Athletic Academic Advising Services Matt Casaña joined the LMU Men’s Water Polo team on a foreign tour of Montenegro. This is his accounts of the trip:
Throughout my time at LMU I have traveled on a few overseas training trips with some of our teams (Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer, and Men’s Basketball) and always found overseas team travel to be beneficial in both training and team building. Usually, these trips lasted from 7-11 days, but this one, with LMU Men’s Water Polo was scheduled for 18 days. I was a bit concerned at the beginning that this might be too long for a team to be together on one trip. But as we come to the end of an amazing team trip to Montenegro, I can say that it has been a joy to see these student-athletes grow in their training and come together as a team. Of course, there are issues that happen along the way, but I feel the student-athletes are learning how to communicate both in and out of the water.
As we flew from Istanbul to Podgorica, I could hear some of the guys commenting on the Bulgarian and Albanian mountain villages below that seemed so isolated from the rest of the world. For half of the student-athletes on this trip, this was their first international travel experience. For the other half, they either grew up outside of the United States or have traveled a decent amount in their lives.
When we landed in Podgorica, the two things we noticed were the size of the airport (a bit smaller than LAX) and the stifling humidity. Once we made it through customs, we boarded the charter bus for Budva, on the south coast of Montenegro. The bus ride was quick and soon we made our way down the mountain switchbacks to the Adriatic Sea and the lovely town of Budva.
Budva is a tourist hub for many Eastern European families and individuals. During our time in Budva, we could hear Serbian, Montenegrin, Italian, and Russian as we walked around town. The team started training the day after we arrived, and Coach Loughran made sure to ease the student-athletes into a training regimen. The indoor pool was different than the guys were used to, since we train outdoors, but the team adjusted quickly to their new training environment. While in Budva, the team had regular practice sessions, skill training with a former Serbian National Coach, and a few scrimmages with the local Budva Water Polo Club.
Outside of training, the team was able to enjoy the local surroundings. From Old Town Budva and Hawaii (an island off the coast) to Przno Beach, where we had some of the best seafood meals at Konoba More (a restaurant owned by the family of Blazo Mitrovic, a member of the team). Our time in Budva was fast and then we were off to Skadar Lake for a day trip, where we say the mountain silhouettes of Albania. After lunch on the lake, we made our way to the Mountains of Northwest Montenegro for a white-water rafting adventure.
The drive to the Tara River was met with some stunning Mountain Vistas that rival Yosemite and Yellowstone. Upon our arrival at the campsite on the Tara River, we realized that on the other side of the river from where we were the country of Bosnia Herzegovina. In addition to the excitement of traveling into a new country, the guys were so mesmerized by the turquoise color of the river. The next day, we took a harrowing ride into Bosnia Herzegovina, on a ridgeline up the Tara River. Our time on the river was just what this team needed at the mid-way point on the trip. The guys worked together in their boats, competed against other boats to see who could get down river faster, jumped off some cliffs into the cold blue waters and spent time at a waterfall. After it was over, we all agreed, we could have stayed one more night, but it was on to Herceg Novi.
Herceg Novi is a beautiful beach town in the Bay of Kotor, only a few miles from the Croatian Border. Our time in Herceg Novi has been wonderful. The outdoor pool is right on the bay with an ancient fort, flying the Montenegrin Flag, looks down upon the guys training. We have competed against the Australian 18-under National team and the Montenegrin National team reserves while in Herceg Novi. We look forward to another few days remaining on the trip as we head to Dubrovnik for a day adventure (where Game of Thrones was filmed) and a scrimmage against the Croatia Junior National team. Then it is off to a training session in the medieval town of Kotor on the opposite side of the Bay, from where we are currently.
This trip has been filled with great training opportunities, team-building, good food, amazing scenery and will be an experience none of us will forget.
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