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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Coasting in Costa Rica

Lady Bears tip off in Costa Rica.
Lady Bears tip off in Costa Rica.

While most sports teams resided in Macon over the summer for training, Mercer’s Women’s Basketball took a more tropical approach and ended the summer with a six-day trip to Costa Rica.

Head Coach Susie Gardner guided the team to two consecutive wins over the Costa Rican National Team. Both wins were delivered convincingly with a 74-48 victory followed by a 90-53 win in the second game.

Despite the scores, senior starter Kahlia Lawrence said she learned a lot from the Costa Rican team’s different playing style.

“Regardless of what the score was, the [Costa Rican] national team gave us a different look than any team we have ever played in the United States. They were actually a little more aggressive in Costa Rica, which was really good for us. It helped us see a different playing style,” Lawrence said.

Gardner and Lawrence both acknowledged that this trip helped the team learn as much off the court as it did on the court. With a slightly different group this year, the journey to the Caribbean allowed for the players to adjust to their new team before the official start of the season.

“We were able to practice a little bit before we went to Costa Rica, and I think that was a great thing for us. Considering we have pretty much the same team back and we have incorporated two new freshmen, I think it was wonderful for them to play with us just a little bit before the season came around and we actually started our in-season practices. We were able to build a little bit of chemistry before that type of thing comes up,” Lawrence said.

Additionally, Lawrence said she believed Costa Rica gave the team the chance to bond as both friends and teammates in a more relaxed setting, thus forming an even more tight-knit team.

“I also think it was just a moment for us to learn more about each other off the court. This Costa Rica trip, which we were especially grateful for, just was able to do that for us. We learned more about what our teammates like, the type of things that we do in our off time, and just the type of people that we are.”

Gardner said she had similar thoughts and was not entirely concerned about how everyone played, but instead saw this trip as an opportunity to reward the large junior and senior classes that worked so hard to turn the program around.  

“I wanted to reward them and thank them for taking a chance on our program when we were not necessarily at the top. I wanted our players to experience something that they would not normally get to experience by going out of the country.”

Although the team did play two games during their stay, the remainder of their stay was spent in San Jose and Jaco Beach touring the island. After hiking waterfalls, seeing exotic animals and zip lining on the island, the team visited and played with children that were part of the San Jose Catholic Church Orphanage.

“That was the most humbling experience seeing those little kids who don’t have a home but make the orphanage their home. And to see people help those children and the families like that was just amazing,” Lawrence said.

Both Lawrence and Gardner agreed that athletics gives you opportunities to go places that you would not ordinarily go.

“I think these experiences are part of the student-athlete experience. It’s not just the academics on campus—it’s not just the playing between the lines—it’s also what can we do outside of basketball,” Gardner said.  

“A lot of us, including myself, would probably never be able to go to Costa Rica on a trip like this without basketball—without being here at Mercer. We’re definitely thankful and grateful for the opportunity that our athletic department gave us,” Lawrence said.


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