- Todd Needle/Daily
By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published September 18, 2013
Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico loves Ann Arbor. Among other things, she loves the weather, the school spirit and, of course, her team. But after spending 10 days in Europe, Ann Arbor seems bleak by comparison.
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“I now call Ann Arbor home,” Barnes Arico said. “But boy was that trip incredible.”
Thanks to super fan Nancy Lohr, the Wolverines had the opportunity to travel to France and Italy for the first foreign trip in program history.
“I honestly can’t say enough about it,” Barnes Arico said. “I’ve been coaching for a long time, and this was the first time that I’ve done a foreign trip.
“I don’t really know if I ever want to do (a trip) again because I don’t think it could ever top the experience that we had. I just think part of the reason it was so incredible was the people that were there. Our kids were so appreciative and just incredible. They’re truly Michigan kids, and they really valued the experience. Plus, our chemistry was terrific.”
The team left Aug. 19 and started in Paris where Michigan visited the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower while also taking a river cruise down the Seine. On Aug. 22, the team took a train to Nice, France, and made trips to Monaco and Lake Como the next day.
Barnes Arico pointed to Nice as one of the best spots. There, she went parasailing, while the team went on a banana boat, and everyone had the opportunity to swim in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Wolverines’ first stop in Italy was Florence before they headed to Rome. There, the team hit the top tourist spots like the Piazza Novana, Pantheon, Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Michigan then visited the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. The trip concluded with a visit to the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Each place was a little bit different, and you got to experience something different in each place that we went,” Barnes Arico said.
“The Coliseum and the Vatican were great,” Barnes Arico said. “I mean just such rich history and tradition, architecture, it was just phenomenal. I don’t have a favorite, the trip was my favorite.”
It wasn’t all sightseeing for the Wolverines, who also played three games while overseas. In its first game, against AMW France, Michigan played two strong halves of basketball to easily defeat its first international opponent, 102-34. Freshman guard Siera Thompson led the team with 23 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The Wolverines played their next two games in Italy, first beating the Italian All-Stars, 112-37, before trouncing Stella Azzurra, 117-15, three days later.
“I thought it really helped our program especially being so young and inexperienced like we will be next year,” Barnes Arico said. “It gave us an opportunity to get some people on the court, give them a little bit of confidence, and really give an opportunity for everyone, myself included, to get to know each other off the court.”
Despite coming off one of its best seasons in program history, when Michigan tied a program record with 22 wins and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Barnes Arico has a young team to work with. The Wolverines are an unknown coming into the season — they welcome four newcomers as well as four players returning from anterior cruciate ligament injuries who didn’t see the court last season.
The foreign trip also allowed the Wolverines to have 10 extra practice days prior to departure.
“We have one player on our roster that’s returning that played over 10 minutes a game, possibly two, (sophomore guard) Madison (Ristovski) and (senior forward) Nicole (Elmblad),” Barnes Arico said. “We have a lot of inexperience, we have a lot of youth, but those are sometimes the most exciting.”