June 06, 2016 12:30PM
As members of the Pittsburg State University women’s basketball team, Paige Lungwitz, Mikaela Burgess and head coach Lane Lord are used to playing on the road. But after participating in the U.S.A. Division II Brazil Tour, their definition of road trip has changed.
“It was unreal,” Lungwitz said. “To play against professional Brazilian teams and get to be on the court with some of the best athletes in the nation was an amazing experience. Having my teammate and head coach there made it even more special.”
The three were part of a 10-person team comprised of some of the best Division II players in the nation. The team had less than 48 hours to practice together in Orlando before flying to Brazil to play against four of that nation’s best teams.
“The organizers did a wonderful job organizing this tour,” said Lord. “The quality of play was fantastic but it was the exposure to the Brazilian culture that really made an impact on our players. The Brazilian people embraced us and made us feel at home. It reminded you of how fortunate we are in the U.S.”
On the court, the team finished 3-1, falling only to a 22-and-under team led by the head coach of the 2012 Brazilian Olympic team. The tour stopped in San Paulo, Goiania, and Rio de Janeiro with visits to some of the country’s most famous sites, including the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugar Loaf Mountain.
“The Christ the Redeemer statue was amazing,” said Burgess. “When you get to the top you get to look out over Brazil. I’ll never forget that view.”
Having the tour stop in Rio also provided the team with an inside look at the preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games.
“Our hotel was on the Copacabana Beach and you could watch them building the sand volleyball courts and facility,” said Lungwitz. “After being there, I’m definitely watching the games much more closely this year.”
Mikaela Burgess, who led the Brazil tour in scoring with 22 points per game, said the experience was one she will never forget.
“The culture and country are absolutely beautiful,” said Burgess. “After every game we would have kids come up to us and ask questions about what it’s like to live in America. It opened my eyes to just how blessed we are to live in this country.”
Below: Coach Lane Lord and Gorilla teammates Paige Lungwitz, left, and Mikaela Burgess display a PSU flag at the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro.