KANSAS CITY, MO. -- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
It was travel day for the Williams College women's soccer team Wednesday as it started its quest to Kansas City and the NCAA Div. III Tournament Final Four and a national semifinal game against Centre College Friday.
It started, as nearly all things in the program do, at Cole Field House, where student-athletes arrived and donned cow suits, a change from last year's trip to Kansas City, when a large number changed in line at the airport while attempting to check in for their flights.
The change was better suited, shall we say, for a trip of this nature, so as head coach Michelyne Pinard peddled chocolate milk on the Cole Field House steps, student-athletes running from class quickly turned into women's soccer players dressed as purple cows.
Upon arrival at the Albany International Airport, the Ephs were greeted by CBS-6 TV Albany and weekend sports anchor Kelly O'Donnell and sports anchor Brittany Devane. O'Donnell sat down for an interview with senior co-captain Mai Mitsuyama and Pinard, while Devane tackled the fun of traveling with cow suits by interviewing senior co-captain Zoe Trutner, junior Maddie Swarr and sophomore Gabz Amos-Grosser.
The cow suit segment developed into a plea to get on "The Ellen Degeneres Show" by both Swarr and Amos-Grosser, so stay tuned. You can watch the entire 9-minute, 38-second segment HERE, but you'll need to scroll down the right-hand side to find it.
After that, Pinard herded most of the team to an early flight to Chicago and then off to Kansas City with no reports of trouble at all. However, the remaining "Magnificant 7" -- consisting of first years Dawn Penso, Sarah Hollenger and Ana Alvarenga, trainer Sarah Coehlo, athletic administrator Carolyn Miles and assistant coaches Laura Wann and Alex McInturf -- had a much more adventurous time.
First, their initial flight out of Albany was delayed, which led of course to a debate about when would best to eat dinner as the layover in Baltimore was being shortened by the minute. It also led to the line of the day, coming from Williams graduate McInturf who said, "You're going to eat airline food? I'd rather eat off my own arm."
For those choosing not to eat before the delayed flight eventually left Albany behind, a rather bumpy ride to Baltimore made airline food an impossibility, as no service was possible. Then came the mad dash seven gates down to board the connecting flight to Kansas City, and that was followed by a 2-hour, 40-minute flight to KC on which they were joined by the men's soccer team from that school to the southeast (Amherst) and also the men's team from Calvin College (yes, a team from Michigan was forced to fly to Baltimore to get to Kansas City.)
Upon arrival in Kansas City however, one hurdle remained: No bus for 7.
They walked and waited. They retrieved their luggage and waited (thank you Southwest, how you pulled that off was a miracle. And then, as the clock slid past 11 p.m. CST, things started getting weird. Wann and McInturf were suddenly speaking with British accents. A small soccer game broke out and innocent travelers were pelted with errant strikes.
Still no bus. Finally, an angel named Kellie arrived and the last of the Ephs' travel party pulled into the lobby of the hotel and into their rooms just as the clock struck midnight.
Today, the Ephs (19-1-2) get back to the serious task of preparing for their national semifinal game against the Colonels from Centre College (KY), which will take place at 2:30 p.m. EST Friday. After breakfast at 9 a.m., the Ephs head to Swope Soccer Village for a one-hour practice and then a walkthrough on the championship game field. Tonight at 6 p.m., the banquet for all eight teams vying for the women's and men's national championship takes place.