Women’s D-III: Augsburg takes on Europe in a 10-day, four-game expedition

Augsburg Women's Hockey (Cynbadmedia)
Augsburg women’s hockey is excited for its coming trip to Europe.  (Cynbadmedia)

The women’s hockey team from Augsburg University is taking a trip of a lifetime to three different countries in Europe. The team’s 10-day excursion will be divided up in the countries of Italy, Germany, and Austria. The women will be playing a total of four games.

Coach Michelle McAteer expresses what this opportunity means to the team and the league.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for personal growth. Traveling will challenge what we know and what we are comfortable with, and it’s even more special when we can do it with family and friends. It’s great to represent the MIAC and provide exposure for our league.”

McAteer also acknowledges the benefits this trip will bring on and off the ice.

“It’s a wonderful team-bonding opportunity that will help develop our team chemistry, which already is pretty strong. We also get to play three to four extra games, which is a huge benefit considering the NCAA allows 25 games and two scrimmages. Extra games provide more opportunities for our entire roster and allow us the freedom to try new things.”

Hockey is a two-semester sport, which makes it extremely difficult for players to study aboard. McAteer and her staff recognize this issue and do their best to accommodate the players.

“Particularly at D-III, we stress the balance between athletics, academics, and a holistic experience. This trip allows us to live those values. This is the third Europe trip in Augsburg Hockey history. Jill Pohtilla took a group in 2004, we continued the tradition in 2014, and plan on doing it every four years so everyone on our roster will get to experience it once in their career.”

With such an extravagant trip planned and many things to look forward to, McAteer lists a few things she will be excited about.

“There is so much to look forward to. We are exploring Munich, Austria, Bolzano, which are areas that are rich in history, culture, and great food. This time around, we made sure to include Rome, which I’m personally looking forward to the most.”

Nikki Nightengale, a junior, is a standout defenseman for Augsburg. Last year, she received all-conference honors and has started this year off with four goals and three assists in six games. As of right now, Nightengale is tied with her defensive partner in the MIAC for the lead in points for defensemen. She conveys the trip from a player’s perspective and what it means to her teammates and herself.

“This trip means the world to our program. This trip is an experience of a lifetime, and not many people are able to have this opportunity. We have had tremendous support from family and friends to alumni and current Auggies. Our team will not take this trip for granted, and we’ll take in everything we can as we are in Europe. This season we already have fantastic chemistry as a team, and I can’t even imagine how much stronger our bonds will be after this unforgettable trip.”

Nightengale anticipates this trip will inspire personal and group growth.

“Personally, I think this will grow my game in different ways, including being able to go out there and just have fun playing with my teammates instead of being afraid to make mistakes. This will also help myself and my teammates learn new styles of play. Obviously, there will be a difference in American-style hockey and the European-style hockey. Hopefully in playing new teams, we will be able to learn new moves and be able to try new things during the games.”

Just like her coach, Nightengale has parts of the trip that she is looking forward to more than others.

“I am looking forward to experiencing a new culture, including new food to try, and I have heard how beautiful the scenery is, which is very exciting. As for sightseeing, it is so difficult to decide which I am looking forward to the most, but toward the top of my list are the Vatican and the Dachau concentration camp.”

The Bloomington, Minnesota, native also noted she has yet to be off the continent, which makes this trip extra special for her.

“I have not been to Europe, let alone outside of North America, and I feel that everyone is so excited to travel. Every so often Europe has been brought up among the team, and everyone talks about how this is going to be a trip of a lifetime, as for many this is a one-time experience.”

The women don’t take for granted the donations and fundraising the team has received for the trip. Nightengale made it apparent that this trip would’ve been a huge financial burden if not for the love and support from the community.

“We have fundraised in many ways to make the trip a little more accessible for everyone on the team. Our supporters have helped us in so many ways that we can’t thank them enough.”

The Auggies had a donation goal of $3,000, and the Augsburg hockey community doubled that and more. The women and some families depart on December 27 and return to Minneapolis on January 5.