In August, DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno stood on the beaches of Normandy and looked out in the distance. He took in the sight, thinking about what the men who gave up their lives on D-Day 70 years ago sacrificed.
He hoped his team did the same.
“I think it was good for our players to understand that the average age of American servicemen that died during D-Day was between 17 and 22 years old,” Bruno said. “That’s another area of service that our players learned the understanding of sacrifice.”
Bruno and the women’s team traveled to France for 11 days, Aug. 11 through Aug. 22. While there, the team got in three exhibition games and took in the sights of the country.
More importantly, the experience allowed the team to grow further and learn the values of being Vincentian.
“It’s great for our players to understand what St. Vincent De Paul really means,” Bruno said. “When you talk about team chemistry, the concept of service is a concept that DePaul University is founded on. The concept of service is what the game of basketball is founded on. Sharing is what the game is all about.”
The Blue Demons are coming off one of their best campaigns in university history after a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in March. But even as the core of the roster mostly remains intact, a new season is also another journey — one that requires growth and familiarity with each other.
DePaul forward Megan Rogowski said that the trip was a great way for them to rebuild the chemistry that made them successful last season.
“It’s awesome that we were able to do that this summer, especially with five new freshmen,” Rogowski said. “We were here early practicing, but spending 11 straight days together gives us a jump start to the season instead of starting in the fall.”
As for the actual basketball being played, the games let Bruno try different lineups and the players to get used to one another on the court. In the first of three games, DePaul beat the French All-Stars 88–59. Senior guard Brittany Hrynko led the day with 20 points and the honor of Most Valuable Player of the game.
The Blue Demons then followed that up with another blowout victory winning 78–56. This time it was sophomore Jessica January who earned the MVP with 17 points. On the third day, the Blue Demons were upset 71–68.
“It was a trip where definitely all of us got closer,” DePaul guard Chanise Jenkins said. “I took a lot from Coach’s quote that every game has a life of its own, knowing that we played the same team three times and sort of laid back the third game.”
Bruno said that the series of games was the first glimpse of how much work the team has to put forth for another year.
“It was good to see the freshmen compete,” Bruno said. “It was good to see how the veterans improved. The overall take on it was that we had some good possessions and some bad possessions. We have a lot of work to do to get back to where we were, or surpass where we were last season.”
Outside basketball, France was about learning who St. Vincent De Paul was and what he stood for. The Blue Demons were enrolled in a class that focused on De Paul while there. Rev. Ed Udovic was the team’s guide.
The team traveled to various spots in France, including the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame cathedral, Mont Saint Michel and many others.
“It was kind of an eye- opening experience to see all that Vincent De Paul did and just seeing the history of France and how far it dates back,” Rogowski said. “It was just an eye opening experience since we had never been there before.”
Yet even as the team grew together, just as much time was spent with those already close with one another. Jenkins said her favorite part of the trip was being able to see her family, who tagged along with the team.
“Being able to just go next door to my mom’s room to just watch movies with her was nice,” Jenkins said. “It was nice seeing my family.”