Toledo women’s basketball team to visit Israel

August 2, 2011 | News, UToday
By Brian DeBenedictis



The Toledo women’s basketball team will get a jump start on its 2011-12 campaign with an opportunity to visit the Middle East from Sunday, Aug. 7, through Thursday, Aug. 18.

The Rockets will travel to Israel to play a pair of exhibition games and take in some sightseeing in the home country of senior Naama Shafir.

The NCAA allows one foreign tour every four years for a program. The NCAA also allows 10 days of practices prior to such a trip. The last time Toledo took an international tour was in 2007 when the Rockets traveled to Toronto for a three-day excursion.

“This trip will be an incredible cultural experience, a team-building opportunity and a jump start to our upcoming season,” said two-time Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year Tricia Cullop. “We will gain a total of 20 days together that will enhance our team’s understanding of our philosophy and system. I love the fact we are taking our outgoing seniors, as well as our incoming freshmen, as they will be able to provide invaluable mentoring to all of our new players.”

The journey was paid for entirely through fundraising efforts by the women’s basketball program over the last two years; no University money is being utilized.

“We can’t thank the generosity of the Toledo community enough for making this trip a reality,” Cullop said. “Through the organization of four different fundraising efforts, we were able to raise over $120,000.”

Cullop sees this trip as a great building block for her team as the 2011-12 season quickly approaches and an opportunity to broaden their horizons.

“Many of our players haven’t ever traveled overseas,” Cullop said. “Because of the obvious connection with Naama, there was never a question of where we would go. This trip is more than just a basketball trip. It is a chance to learn more about each other, other cultures, and experience things we may never get the opportunity to see again.

“Naama has sacrificed a lot to play in the United States. It has to be hard to be away from your family and loved ones for such an extended period of time. This trip will give her family the chance to see her play in person with The University of Toledo, and it will also give all of her teammates and coaches a chance to meet her eight other siblings and experience all Israel has to offer. We will be visiting historical sites we have read about all of our lives. This is truly a trip of a lifetime.”

The Rockets’ roster includes nine returning letterwinners from the record-setting 2010-11 season when Toledo won the WNIT Championship, plus two transfers who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules and three incoming freshmen.

Making the trip will be seniors Courtney Ingersoll, Haylie Linn and Shafir; juniors Kyle Baumgartner, Riley McCormick, Yolanda Richardson and Lecretia Smith; sophomores Mariah Carson, Andola Dortch, Brianna Jones and Janelle Reed-Lewis; and newcomers Ana Capotosto, Taylor Carver and Stephanie Recker.

Former Rockets Melissa Goodall and Jessica Williams, who graduated last spring, also are eligible to go on the foreign tour per NCAA rules.

In addition to playing two exhibition games, the team’s tentative itinerary includes:

• Touring Maccabi Stadium, home of the international Maccabi Games or “Jewish Olympics,” in Tel Aviv;

• Seeing Ein Gedi, one of two fresh water springs in the Dead Sea region, and hiking to the desert spring, which served as a refuge for King David;

• Visiting Jerusalem, stopping at Haas Promenade to recite Shehecheyanu, and going to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum;

• Traveling to the Sea of Galilee, source of much of Israel’s fresh water, stopping along the way to absorb the sites and stories of Beit Shean, Megido and Nazareth;

• Spending some time in Hoshaya, Shafir’s hometown;

• Going to Tzfat, which sits at a higher altitude than any other city in Israel; and

• Stopping in Haifa, Israel’s first port city, and visiting the gardens of the Baha’i Temple.

Read more, including blogs by players during the trip, at

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