The lure of a five-day basketball camp was enough to entice the Yosemite Girls Basketball Club program to travel to Colgate University in rural mid-state New York.
The girls basketball program has traveled extensively over the years, with multiple trips to Florida, Washington, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Southern California but this was the first trip to the Northeast.
Ten players, two coaches and two parents made the trip flying Friday night, July 22 from Oakland to the Newark airport, and then driving to Albany for the first night.
Colgate University is in the middle of the state in Hamilton, New York. The Colgate Raiders athletic teams play in the NCAA D-I Patriot League which includes the likes of Army and Navy.
“The Team Camp did not start until later on Saturday so we stopped at Cooperstown to tour the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Coach Gary Blate said.
The team participated in the top Varsity Division against teams from New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont with seniors Allison Bernardi, Kelsey Montalto and Siena Oswald - juniors Grace Fries, Lilly Graffigna, Sophie McGoldrick and Linnea Leinau (who could not compete because of a recent knee surgery) - and incoming freshman Britney Allen, Lauren Bernardi and Jenna Kurz.
Blate was assisted by Chris Graffigna, with Cari Kurz and Valerie Bernardi as chaperones.
The camp consisted of games, clinics plus team practices. During the span of the camp the Yosemite team played 12 full games, five situational minigames, participated in shooting contests and rehearsed for a talent show. The team camp format had some unique rules and no 30-second clock but the Yosemite team took the top team, the Vermont defending state champions, into overtime before losing by four points. The girls also took third place in the talent show performing a routine to California Girls (Katy Perry).
On Thursday, after the conclusion of the camp, the group took the train to New York City, the World Trade Center site. They walked around the 9/11 Memorial and then took the Staten Island ferry past the Statue of Liberty.
The next day, Friday, they took their baggage on the train to midtown NYC and rolled their bags about a half-mile to their Times Square hotel. A bus tour around upper Manhattan and a visit to the Museum of Modern Art followed.
On Friday evening, the team saw The Play the Goes Wrong, a hilarious production from London which is a big hit off-Broadway (less than 499 seats). On Saturday, the group enjoyed the mile long street fair on Sixth Avenue and saw two more Broadway shows, the matinee production of Beautiful, the Carole King Story and the evening performance of Phantom of the Opera, the longest running show on Broadway, opening in 1988.
After midnight, the team enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of Times Square.
On Sunday, the only sunny day of the trip, prior to rolling their bags down to Penn Station, the entire group took a one-hour bicycle lap around Central Park.
Basketball and culture made for a memorable trip as the basketball players culminated a the summer schedule which included tournaments in Sacramento, Ventura and Los Angeles.
Senior Alison Bernardi said she will never forget arriving in New York City, climbing out of the subway, suitcase in one hand and her basketball bag strapped to her back, and being struck by the gargantuan skyscrapers.
“The city that never sleeps, the Big Apple, a concrete jungle where dreams are made ... where else would be the perfect place to take 10 small-town girls with big dreams,” Bernardi said. “The two days in the city was a whirlwind of fun and unforgettable memories. Beautiful - The Carol King Musical was truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.”
Fries said that although camp was exhausting, it was a great opportunity for the team.
“Playing three games a day along with practices and clinics was nothing like anything we’ve ever done,” Fries said. “We all improved in our own ways individually and we’re definitely stronger as a team. The greatest part of the whole trip was standing in the middle of Times Square after midnight with all of the lights and noises surrounding us like we were all in a movie. I wish we never had to leave but I’m so thankful for the opportunity. As a teenage girl from such a small town, I never thought I’d get to go to New York City. A huge thank you to Coach Blate and to all the parents and supporters who made this trip happen.”
Yosemite High Correspondent