KU's Holly Gault Chronicles U.S. Under-21 Experience

March 23, 2006

KU’s Holly Gault chronicled her trip with the U.S. Under-21 Women’s National Team to the United Kingdom. Gault spent eight days with the U.S. Under-21 team as it played two matches. <?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

Gault is currently in Carson, Calif., training with the U.S. Under-21 team as it prepares for the annual Nordic Cup, being held in Norway this coming summer.

Day 1

I left Kansas City around 4 p.m. and got to Philadelphia around 8 p.m. and met up with the rest of the team. We left for England around 10 p.m. and got to England around 11 a.m. their time.

Day 2

We arrived at the airport and it took us a long time to get all the bags and get through customs. We packed everything up on the bus and met our guide. I just wanted to get some sleep because I was not able to sleep all that much on the plane.

We got to our hotel in Maidenhead, England after about an hour drive from the airport and only had an hour before we had our first training session. Training was pretty light but we got after it. I was just excited not to be sitting on a plane or a bus but it took a while to get the body going after all the travel. The field was a really nice but it was only 35 degrees so it evened out. The rest of the day we just hung out and tried to recover from the travel.

Day 3

We had two training sessions today. We did a lot of playing mostly short-sided games. The rest of the day I tried to keep up with my classes. I had to study for my three exams I had when I got back to KU. Most of the down time I had I studied or got to know some of the girls. There were two other girls from the Big 12 Conference on the trip and it was nice to get to know them and everyone else outside of just playing against them.

My roommate for the duration of the trip was Jen Buczkowski from Notre Dame. We had extra time to hang out in London for a couple of hours. It was pretty amazing just walking around. My group almost got hit by a couple of cars because we kept looking the wrong direction when crossing the streets because they drive on the other side of the road. It was pretty funny; everyone had to know that we were Americans.

We found this awesome soccer store that had replica jerseys and soccer gear. It had to be the coolest store that I went into the whole trip. I spent more money in that store than I probably should have. We rode around on the tube (subway) for a while because it was cold and rainy. We took tons of pictures of random stuff. It was just so much fun.

Day 4

We had to travel again today. We went up to Scotland to play its full team. We had a light training session but it was mainly to go over what our game plan was for the upcoming game. The rest of the day I hung out in the hotel and did homework.

I did finally meet up with my parents. I was lucky enough that my parents were able to make the trip over to watch me play. The first couple of days they hung out and did their own thing. Of course being who we are my parents and I went to the “Wal-Mart” in Scotland. It was pretty much the same thing as here, no big surprises but it was pretty funny.

Day 5

GAMEDAY! I was so excited to put on that uniform. Just looking at it I couldn’t believe that I was just about to put on a jersey that said USA. It had always been a dream of mine and even though it wasn’t a big game it didn’t mean any less to me. I was just too excited and proud.

I couldn’t stop thinking about my teammates throughout the years who have helped me get here. This wasn’t just my honor but theirs as well and I had to play for them. I wouldn’t be there without their help throughout the years.

The game went well. I got my big chance with about 30 minutes left in the game. I had a couple of chances but we didn’t finish. We ended up beating them 3-1. Their one goal was a pretty amazing goal. A girl hit a full volley from about 20 yards out. Just playing in this game made me realize just how fast the game is the higher you go. Individual skills and overall knowledge of the game go up as well. It was such a great environment to play in and allowed me to watch some great players and gain experience.

Day 6

This was mainly a rest day between games. We now had to prepare to play the England U-21 team. We knew they were going to be the better side. We had a light jog and stretch then we played a finishing game. The day was pretty laid back.

That evening we went to an English Premiere League game. We watched West Ham at home. It was amazing. I loved watching soccer with so many other people who love soccer. That atmosphere was nothing like I have ever been in before while watching soccer. It was like watching American football here. I had so much fun and can’t wait to go back and see other games. That was the highlight of the trip. I will never forget that soccer atmosphere.

Day 7

GAMEDAY! Once again putting on that jersey was something I really couldn’t believe. I had earned the start for this game as right outside back. The game was very quick paced and it took a while for both teams to settle down. The field conditions were wet and soft so it was hard for us to get the ball down.

The English team was a little bit more prepared for these field conditions and they came at us and pressed us right away. It took a while for me to calm down because my emotions were running high. They ended up beating us after both teams had notched a goal with a goal off of a free start. The game was very evenly matched but we had our chances to put them away earlier. The game was a great opportunity for me to get into an international game and was just such an awesome experience.

Day 8

We hung out all day with the team. That night we had a big team dinner. The next day we would be heading back to the states.

The overall experience was awesome. I had so much fun playing with all the girls and getting to know everyone. I definitely made some new friends. This was my first trip out of the country and I had the greatest time. I just wish it wouldn’t have been so cold. That was the only down point to the trip. After every training session or game it took me a while to warm up back to normal.

I will never forget what it was like to represent the USA. It was always something I dreamed of as a kid and I never thought that I would really get this opportunity. Sometimes I still can’t believe it.