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Pair of Women’s Lacrosse Players Take Their Talents Overseas

Seniors Pennino and Vona Visited Amsterdam To Compete Internationally Over Summer

November 1, 2012

Pair of Women’s Lacrosse Players Take Their Talents Overseas

Contact: Isabelle Mahoney

VESTAL, N.Y.—This past June, two senior members of the women’s lacrosse team, Lindsay Vona and Kristin Pennino, spent 10 days of their summer traveling across the Atlantic to Amsterdam to play lacrosse.  Head women’s lacrosse coach Tony Zostant sparked the girls’ interest in the organization, USA Athletes International (USAAI), a non-profit organization that offers athletes the opportunity to play all over the world.  This outlet allows athletes to participate in a forum that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to while representing the character and integrity of their country. 

Since 1992, the USAAI has sent over 900 athletes comprised of seven sports to a total of 14 different countries.  Originally, the organization started out as a program that provided baseball players with the opportunity to play overseas, since then the organization has grown exponentially and branched out to include other sports.  The program is open to all high school and college athletes that have been recommended by coaches, athletes, and athletic professionals. 

During their time overseas, the girls played different teams hailing from Israel, Amsterdam, Italy, and Germany.  Kristin and Lindsay joined a group of 12 girls from across the US, including states like New Jersey, Colorado, and California.  Due to a limited roster size of 12, the team was able to play alongside representatives from different countries.  In addition with competing against some countries that are just starting to pick up lacrosse, the girls were also fortunate enough to do some sightseeing along the way.

What was your favorite part about the trip?
KP: My favorite part about the trip was first and foremost getting to experience a completely different culture and be out of my comfort zone.  Also, I loved getting the opportunity to play with not only girls across the US, but girls from all over the world.
LV: My favorite part of the trip was being able to see Europe and sharing the experience with people from all over the United States

How did you find out about the program?
KP: A previous teammate (Ali Castigle) had done the program a few years back.  She went to different countries but still said that it was an awesome experience. My coach emailed me information about the team and asked if it was something I would be interested in and I jumped at the opportunity.
LV: I found out about the program through coach Zostant, who recommended that we look into the program. Once I looked over the possibilities with Kristin, the idea of traveling overseas seemed like a great opportunity.

What did it mean to you to represent the US overseas?
KP: It was a really humbling experience to be able to represent the US in this tournament.  Lacrosse is a relatively new sport in Europe so it felt gratifying to know we are the “vets” so to speak.  This gave us the unique opportunity to show girls from other countries the ropes.
LV: I felt a lot of pride being able to represent the US overseas.  I felt a great sense of nationalism competing against other countries. 

How did it feel to teach other teams about lacrosse that are just starting to slowly draw more interest in the sport?
KP: It was really cool to be able to share what I have learned throughout the years and pass on my passion of the sport to these girls who are still grasping the basic concepts.
LV: It felt great to be able to teach others about lacrosse and be able to relay my knowledge of the sport to others who are just starting out.  It gave me a new appreciation for how developed and challenging the sport has become in the US.

What was your favorite game to watch when you weren’t playing?
KP: The Global and Israel teams were our biggest competition in the tournament so watching them square off was always a good show.
LV: The men’s championships were very exciting to watch at the tournament. Outside the tournament, soccer was the best to watch because when we were there they were playing for the European championships.

How did you incorporate sightseeing into your schedule while competing?
KP: The program assigned two delegates from Holland to work with our team the whole time. We had Niels and Dominique who were the friendliest, most enthusiastic tour guides ever! Dominique was currently living in Amsterdam so she took us to all the great spots like the Anne Frank house, the I Amsterdam sign, and Heineken factory.  We also got to take a fabulous canal cruise throughout the streets of Amsterdam. Since we were there for 10 days we had some extra off days to explore the city and do the more time consuming trips. On days that we had games it was always spaced out so that we could take breaks for a few hours to grab lunch or go shopping.
LV: We arrived in Amsterdam about 5 days before our tournament started so we were able to sight-see for those 5 days.  Also, we were able to explore the city at night after our games were finished for the day.

Was this your first time overseas?  Did it scare you to leave?  Did having a current teammate go with you influence your decision to join the program?
KP: This was my first time overseas! I was more excited than nervous to get over there. Not only did I have a current teammate with me (Lindsay Vona), I luckily had a former high school teammate who was asked to be on the team as well (Brittany Rader). Having the reassurance that two good friends would be along for the ride with me made things easier.
LV: This was not my first time overseas, but it was my first time in Amsterdam so that was nerve racking.  It was great to have KP (Kristin) with me as a sense of comfort because she was a great person to enjoy these new experiences with.

Did it feel good to pick up your sticks over the summer and play?
KP: Having played travel lacrosse every summer my entire youth, it was cool to get back into playing during the summer even though the heat was rough sometimes.
LV: Yes, I usually play in a few summer leagues, but since I was studying abroad in Madrid right after the trip, it was great to be able to keep the stick in my hands.

Were some of your other teammates your college opponents?
KP: I did notice one of the Israel players is a member of the UConn Women’s lacrosse program so that was really cool to recognize someone that we’ve played at BU.

How did your team develop some sort of camaraderie throughout your time together?
KP: Right from the first night, we all bonded pretty quickly.  We had a ton of various personalities so we definitely had a lot to bring to the table. I think we all meshed so quickly because we were all in the same boat, just trying to get accustomed to our new atmosphere and have a great time!
LV: Since we were with one another nonstop for 12 days we all became really close.  By the end of the trip you would have thought we had been playing with one another for years.  I still stay in contact with some of the girls I played with.

Where did you stay?  Did you stay with other teams as well?
KP: We stayed in an amazing 4-star hotel, the Novotel. All of the teams were scattered in different locations, so it was only our team at that hotel.
LV: We stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of Amsterdam. We didn’t stay with other teams but we met a lot of other teams at the tournament.

What was your favorite place to see?  Did you go with your whole team or just on your own?
KP: There’s no way I could pick one place that was my favorite! The Anne Frank House was truly an amazing sight to see.
LV: My favorite place to see was the Anne Frank house.  We went as a team and it was eye-opening to see what people had to go through during WWII in Europe.

How has this helped your defensive lacrosse game for this upcoming season?
KP: Playing over the summer helped to keep me on track to work hard for this season coming up.  It served as a reminder of how much I love the game.
LV: It has helped my defensive game in that I was able to see a different way in which people play.  People in different regions of the US have different styles of play, but it was good to get an even broader scope of how people play across the globe.

Has this trip made you excited for entering into your senior year as a student-athlete?
KP: Absolutely. It reassured me that all this time and effort has been worth it because I am playing a sport that I love, whether it’s here at BU or across the world.
LV: Yes, definitely.  It made me eager to get back into the swing of things with my own team and keep improving on what I have worked on over the summer.

If you could look back, would you decide to go on the trip again?  Would you recommend it to some of your younger teammates?
KP:  I would recommend going abroad to anyone. It helped me learn so much about myself and really highlights what’s important in life. This trip was the best experience of my life and having the opportunity to do it again would be a blessing.
LV: I would 100% do the trip again if I got the chance to.  I would recommend this trip to my teammates because it truly is a once in a lifetime experience.  The people you meet and the places you see are just as important as the lacrosse aspect of the trip. I would want my teammates to be able to experience what I had because it has not only opened my eyes on the game of lacrosse, but culturally as well.

For further information on the USAAI visit their website here


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