The College of Wooster women's soccer team took part in a week-long student-funded trip to Iceland from May 14-20 for a mixture of training and cultural excursion through the Nordic island. Throughout the team's stay, coaches and members of the team kept fans and followers up-to-date with their daily activities via blog posts. For a deeper dive, read below for a day-by-day itinerary of the Fighting Scots' experiences or visit the linked photo gallery and recap video.
Monday, May 14 - Rada Zunich | Jr., Defender
Boarding The College of Wooster Bus at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday night, we set off for our week-long adventure in Iceland. We flew the six-hour trip with Wow Air, landing in Reykjavik to a cold 45 degrees Fahrenheit and rain at 6:30 a.m. EST time (10:30 a.m. local time). After getting all our belongings at the airport, we had a light snack and a training session at Briedablik Indoor Training Center. We transferred to our hotel downtown and were finally able to lay down for a couple of hours.
However, at 5:30 p.m. we were leaving again, this time to play our first game - a 7 p.m. kick-off against local club team, Alftanes. The game was outdoors, and it was chilly, but we battled through a tough and very physical opponent and managed to win the game, 1-0, on a goal by first-year Brie Jarrell on an assist from fellow first-year Kelsey Stone. It was a great game considering that no one got more than a couple of hours sleep on the plane and that we haven't really been able to sit down and have a proper meal for the last 24 hours.
The scenery here is amazing and the people are very friendly. Food is expensive, but we are looking forward to getting some rest tonight. Tomorrow, we have a full day planned of hiking up Mount Esja, a swim in a geothermal pool, and finish by attending a Women's Premier League game. Following the game, we got back to the hotel, had a quick meeting about our day tomorrow, and then went out to find something for dinner. Eating dinner at 10:30 p.m. with it still light outside was strange but kind of cool too.
Tuesday, May 15 - Maddy Ireton | Jr., Goalkeeper
Today we had an AWESOME day. After breakfast in the hotel, we took the bus to Mount Esja.
While we were hiking up the mountain, it started to snow! It was so beautiful. What was cool was the water was so pure, that you could drink it right out of the creek running down the mountain. The mountain scenery was so beautiful, we hiked for about 2 ½ hours, ate lunch at the base of the mountain then boarded the bus for our next stop.
We went to the geothermal swimming pool at Laugardalslaug. They had so many pools that all had different temperatures of water. Even though the air was chilly the pools were naturally heated. There was even a salt-water pool with water pumped in from out in the sea. There was also an ice bath which was FREEZING! The best part about the whole pool was the water slide. It was reaallyyyyy fun, and if you slid on your side you went even faster. The coaches all tried the slide too! They had a lot of fun, but Coach Wes said the slide was dark and kind of scary!
We grabbed some food at the local shopping center at Kinglan. Finally, we attended an Icelandic Women's professional soccer game between Handknattleiksfélag Kópavogs (HK) and Breidablik. It was a really physical game with some extremely hard working and talented players. Breidablik won the game 3-1. We sat next to a youth boys team who brought some drums and taught us some team chants!
Overall it was a fun-packed day! I can't wait to see what is in store for tomorrow. We are having so much fun here!!!!
Wednesday, May 16 - Kaitlin Looney | Jr., Defender
Gameday. Our alarms set for 8:15 a.m., Mackenzie Goltz and I awoke for a morning 2 Mile jog to stretch our legs. Our route took us along the water, then through downtown Reykjavík past the colorful shops, cafes, and boutiques. After finishing off a cozy breakfast in the hotel, the team set off on a walking tour highlighting the Viking ship, Hallgrímskirkja church, the Harpa Concert Hall, and the Old Harbor. The team then had free time to find good food and explore more of the city center.
Today we conquered the great Golden Circle. On the tour, we visited the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the two plates meet, went to a geyser, saw some Icelandic horses, and visited the falls. We were on this bus tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. What a day it was!
We started the day off at the Þingvellir National Park where we had to tread through a "monsoon." We had to push through some great winds, much rain, and chilly weather but it was all worth it for the beautiful landscape.
Our next stop was the geyser. This was beautiful! It was placed in the middle of the countryside. So while watching the geyser shoot off every few minutes we also had the chance to view some beautiful mountains along with many hot springs with crystal clear water. We had to be careful not to step in any of the water that was flowing through the walking path because it was boiling hot. I accidentally tripped and stepped in a puddle, good thing it was chilled but then I was walking around with wet sneakers the rest of the day.
Our third stop was short and quick. We stopped to see the Icelandic Horses! There were three of them and everyone made sure to get a picture. We then quickly departed for the waterfall! Here there were breathtaking views. From the bus, we walked to an overlook of the waterfall at Gullfoss. Here we could see all of the mist flying from the falls and the water rolling down the canyon. As we all followed each other one by one down a path through the mud and the mist, we finally made it to the edge of the falls. It was very loud but it gave us one of the most beautiful sights of the day. The air smelled like sulfur and the mist blew through our hair while everyone was trying to capture the beauty of the moment. About an hour and a half were spent at the falls and every minute there was appreciated. What a sight to see!
Now it was time for the long bus ride back to Reykjavik where our hotel is. I was very tired from all of the exciting things that were just experienced so I took a much-needed nap on the bus and some others viewed the scenery as we were driving through the countryside.
We were then given a few free hours before dinner. Maddy, Rada, Sam, Erin, and I decided to try out the Cupcake Shop. There were four flavors to choose from and I decided on the Bounty. This was a chocolate cupcake with coconut flavoring. I do not think I've ever tasted a cupcake that was that good!
At dinner, we went to Grillhusid and the whole team seemed to be having a blast as everyone mixed and mingled. We had the choice of food between fish, chicken, and lamb. I chose chicken and it was a great choice. The sauce was very sweet and it also came with sweet potatoes fries. My favorite!
Overall it was a very fun and enjoyable day. It was nice to spend most of the day as a team and to be able to talk to everyone that I had not spent as much time with the first few days.
Friday, May 18 - David "Geordie" Brown | Head Coach
Today started with a 45-minute ride to the Lava Tunnel at Raufarholshellier. It was pretty remote there, basically only a hut. After getting our instructions, and helmets with lights we were led out the back door and into the tunnel. We descended into caves where it was amazing to see the build-up of ice and snow sculptures naturally made underground. The tunnel is one of the biggest core tunnels in Iceland. Our guide (Daniel) explained how we were going "upstream" in terms of the lava flow. The tunnel was huge and rugged. Unlike many tourist areas in the US, in Iceland there are fewer safeguards like ropes, paths, lighting, etc. We were able to climb over the Lava Rocks to get to a perfect picture spot. The colors in the tunnel walls were so vivid and explained the boiling lava and cooling that took places thousands of years ago. The tour lasted about an hour and gave us a glimpse inside something very Icelandic.
We returned to our hotel in time for lunch. The Coaches decided to walk down to the harbor and have a pre-game lunch meeting over Reykjavik Fish and Chips. While in the harbor it was a good chance to check up on the tours and excursions that we will be taking tomorrow from that area.
At 3:15 p.m., we left the hotel to listen to a presentation at the Iceland University by Sociology Professor Viðar Halldórsson. He has been studying Why Iceland, with its population of just over 300,000 can compete and be successful in team sports against countries 10, 50, 100 or 1000 times bigger. It was a fascinating look at how the team is bigger than the individual. He looked at success in sports like Handball, Soccer and Basketball and how the community feel of sports in Iceland plays a big part in creating a team atmosphere. One of the things he looked at was the number of times in a game players celebrated something good happening (with gestures). Iceland teams more than doubled their actions in this area than their opponents in the games studied. He also looked at communication and positive body language. He was able to quantify these into data to show Icelanders are real team players. I think it gave our team a lift going into our evening game.
After leaving the university, we traveled the short drive to a place called Grotta. This is in the north-east corner of Reykjavik, right on the coast. The field was set against a wonderful backdrop of the Atlantic ocean on one side and snow-covered mountains on the other. The game went very well for the Scots, with early first-half goals from forwards, Miura Wiley and Erica White, however by half-time the home team had evened up the score at 2-2. Within seconds of the second half starting Claire Davis restored our lead and Erica White added a 2ndto have the game finish up 4-2. The defense kept Grotta at bay in the second half and secured the victory. Our hosts at Grotta were extremely hospitable and good competition. We ended the soccer part of the trip with 2 wins and a loss. Not too shabby!
We returned to the Hotel Fron for a shower and late dinner. The Chicken, Lobster and Fish Pasta's were all very tasty. Tomorrow, we are back to being tourists as the group splits up and chooses between whale watching, horseback riding, puffin watching or the Blue Lagoon.
Saturday, May 19 - Emma Lawrence | Jr., Defender
We began our morning with the usual hotel breakfast that never failed to fill our tummies. We trekked down to the harbor for whale watching; however, the weather did not permit it. The rain began to pick up and the waves began to crash over the rocks, but that did not stop us. We attempted a few whale calls in hopes the whales would come out to say hello; we had no luck.
Puffin tours were the next go-to. As we waited for the 11 o'clock puffin tour, we sat in the Röst and enjoyed some coffee and bonding time. Games of chess and Jenga occupied the time until we were soon disappointed that the weather did not permit the puffin tours, as they were also too scared of the weather. However, our teammates had luck at the Blue Lagoon for some relaxation and horseback riding on the native Icelandic horses.
The flea market was the next big stop for us on this Saturday afternoon. There were many vendors with an assortment of items and most importantly... free samples. Most of the team and even coach Wes Davis got the famous Icelandic hot dogs, an absolute must. Claire Davis and I finished off a wonderful morning of whale calls and flea market adventures with a nice, long, needed nap before dinner. We were treated to an awesome dinner at Lebowski's of burgers, fries, and shakes! Basically back in America, right? As we ate, we watched the Manchester United versus Chelsea FA cup final game. Chelsea won off a questionable PK call early in the first half. After dinner, many of us packed and first stopped for crêpes (again) and then began our search for a fun place to enjoy some live music on our last night here. And that is Emma Lawrence signing off...
Sunday, May 20 - Wes Davis | Assistant Coach
Today was the last day in Iceland... what do you do on the last day? You do everything you wanted to do previously, you shop til you drop, you eat at your favorite little restaurant, you recover from the experiences of earlier days, you see Puffins!
The breakfast in the hotel has been the starting point for many, fill up your tank to take on Reykjavík. I've enjoyed decent coffee, breakfast meats and cheeses and yogurts. On days like today when the itinerary has been light, the players on the team have scattered to explore end interact with Iceland. Before the players left this morning they did have to pack and stow their luggage. We had a mountain of bags stacked in the lobby nearly as tall as Mt. Esja.
I know that many returned to favorite breakfast spots for one last pastry or waffle or coffee or one last run around the city. Following checkout, I spent the morning into early afternoon at a local swimming pool. The geothermally heated water is a great feeling when the wind is whipping and rain falls pretty consistently. Today I felt very local. It was Sunday morning and many locals were out for a dip in the pools... lounge, swim laps or soak in the hot spas... it all feels good.
After missing out on a Puffin tour yesterday due to wind that whipped up nasty waves. Today I received an urgent text message from Maddy Ireton saying that a boat had gone out and another was going in 30 minutes! She and Kelsey Hall walked quickly to book their spots. I took a taxi from the pool and met them at the ticket window as they paid for tickets. While the water was still a bit choppy the sun was shining, then it rained, then it was cloudy, then the sun came out and we saw Puffins! What a sight. While many are still returning to the ground where they will reunite with their mate to nest this summer we did see Puffins and a few other birds.
Following this trip, we were excited by the experience of being on the water and actually getting to see some birds up close. Lunch. Why not a lamb stew? It was good!
Well, our time has come to leave the hotel and transfer to the airport. Our Driver, Gummi, has been excellent! First class all the way on this trip when traveling with him. Barry has been the ever-exciting guide. Alum Jeff Berichon has provided the wise word on the sideline, a laugh and smile throughout the long days and has shown the girls what Wooster students can become.
This trip has been the culmination of many many months of planning, preparation, and parental support. The team played hard, scored goals, celebrated together and enjoyed the trip of a lifetime as teammates.