Two different types of breaks
While some student-athletes have games, others plan to enjoy time away from the field
For women's soccer players N'Dea Johnson (left) and Courtney Gross, UB's Spring Break is an opportunity to explore Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum
After playing in the bitterly cold weather of winter in Buffalo, some athletes will escape frigid temperatures for a week of travel.
For UB women's soccer players N'Dea Johnson, Natalie Jurisevic and Courtney Gross and Gross' twin sister Gillian - a senior on Akron's women's soccer team - a trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, is the first Spring Break excursion that any of the four will experience.
"It's me and Nat's senior year and N'Dea's our best friend, so what other way do we want to spend our last Spring Break?" Gross said.
Gross decided on Punta Cana largely because her older sister Marissa went when she was in college. Gross said some other players are going to prevalent party locations like Daytona Beach and Panama City in Florida, but Gross and Johnson wanted a more relaxing break.
Some girls from last year's team also went to Punta Cana. The trip is all-inclusive and consists of time at the beach and pool, paddle boarding, jet skiing, banana-boat tubing and more.
This spring, the team has been practicing six times per week. They are off Wednesdays and weekends, and Johnson said the players are looking forward to the break.
"I think it's one of the benefits of not being in-season that we get to go away for Spring Break," Johnson said. "We don't get much of a summer because we have to be here in like August."
The Bulls have a spring game on Friday, March 14, before they begin their break. They return to practice March 24.
The team had a meeting with new head coach Shawn Burke - who was an assistant the previous five seasons - on the first day of the spring semester. He told the girls the spring schedule, but allowed them to spend their week off however they pleased.
"Before I came here, I thought it was going to be like the worst thing ever," Johnson said. "Like I wouldn't have any free time and I won't be able to do everything college kids do, but I think I'm getting the same college experience that regular kids are getting."
The women's tennis team will be bonding in the warmth as well, but they won't be enjoying as much time on the beach.
The Bulls will rent a house rather than stay in separate hotels when they compete in Florida on March 15 and 16. This opportunity will allow the team to spend some relaxing time together, doing things like eating dinner and grocery shopping with one another.
The "spring training," as head coach Kristen Maines described it, allows the Bulls to escape the Buffalo gym and play outdoors. The chance is pivotal, as the Bulls will play outdoors during part of conference play and in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
"It's always a little interesting the first time you go outside and try to play," Maines said.
She stressed that the game changes drastically when heat, wind and sun come into play.
The Bulls' spring break games will be their final non-conference matches before they open up conference play Friday, March 21, against Eastern Michigan in Buffalo.
The men's tennis team will also be in Florida when it plays UCF, Southern Mississippi and Illinois.
"For us to have the opportunity to win at the end of the season, we've got to get outside and this really gives us that ability to do so," Nickell said. "It's vital."
Buffalo only played one or two games outside last season before the conference tournament last season, according to Nickell.
"If we are close to the beach, we will go to the beach and whatever, but we won't be doing anything too fun," Nickell said, describing the break as a "business trip."
The baseball team is feeling the effect of UB's late spring break this year due to the Winter Session. The team usually takes advantage of the 10-day hiatus to go on an extended road trip. This season, the Bulls begin conference play during break.
Buffalo faces Northern Illinois March 21-23. Before the Huskies, the Bulls will travel to Valparaiso in Indiana for a Wednesday game. Valparaiso played in the NCAA Tournament last season.
"The only difference for our guys is when they wake up Monday, they aren't going to have any classes," said head coach Ron Torgalski.
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