Credit: Stock image | Pixabay

University of Maine women’s head basketball coach Amy Vachon said the excursion to Italy taken by the 2014-15 Black Bear team was a “trip of a lifetime.”

Now they have another European tour on the horizon, and this time it will be to Greece next May 11-20.

Teams are allowed under NCAA rules to take one foreign trip every four years.

The team will practice and play three games against opponents yet to be determined, but the trip also will include a guided tour of Athens, a full-day excursion to Nafplio, Mycenae and Epidaurus along with another to Rethymno, Knosso Palace and Heraklion; a half-day tour of Cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon; a flight to Crete, and a three-island cruise to the Saronic Islands (Hydra, Aegina and Poros).

“Greece has always been a place I’ve wanted to go,” Vachon said. “I was talking with a coach there and brainstorming about places to take an international tour and through that connection with her, a really good opportunity came up and it was one I couldn’t pass up.

“The benefits go way beyond basketball, although it is because of basketball that we are able to do it,” Vachon said. “Basketball is what brings us together.”

The educational and historical benefits are memorable, according to Vachon.

“You’re learning about part of our world and its history that you had read about in textbooks,” she said. “If you think America is old, it doesn’t compare at all to Italy. You saw the history there … .the Colosseum in Rome and the Vatican.

“Greece is even older. We will be seeing so many different things that a lot of the kids wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.”

The trip will also give the team’s four European players an opportunity to play in front of their families and friends, Vachon said.

“It’s super exciting,” said UMaine junior guard Blanca Millan, who is from Spain and played in a tournament in Greece several years ago. “There are going to be a lot of things to visit like the monuments. And the beaches are super nice.”

She said it will be a valuable bonding experience.

“We’ll get to know each other outside of basketball,” Millan said.

Millan said it is neat knowing that some of her teammates will be visiting Europe for the first time.

“I’ve seen how people live here for the past two years and now they’ll be able to see how we live in Europe,” said Millan, who hopes her father will be able to come and see her play. He hasn’t been able to get to Maine yet but her mother and sister have been able to visit.

Fans also may sign on to join the tour for a special rate: $8,600 for a couple and $4,500 for single person. Of those fees, $500 goes toward assisting with the players’ costs.

The price includes airfare from Montreal, Quebec, to Greece and back, all bus transportation, accommodations at four-star hotels, daily breakfast buffets, five lunches or dinners in Athens, three lunches or dinners in Crete, all entrance fees to tour destinations and the benefit of an English-speaking tour leader.

A minimum of 22 fans must commit by Dec. 1 by making a non-refundable payment that is half the total cost. For more information, call the women’s basketball office at 581-4067.

The team will be doing a variety of fundraising projects and seeking donations to raise money for the trip, which will cost approximately $77,000, according to Vachon.

Those interested in making a gift to support the trip should contact UMaine senior associate athletic director for development Seth Woodcock at 381-5910.

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