A lot of people head to Florida for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. The coaches and players of the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team are doing that -- on a combined business and pleasure trip.
The Hurricanes are one of some 70 girls high school basketball teams that are playing in the KSA Holiday Girls Basketball Tournament in Orlando, Fla. Hoosac will get two games in the tournament and will play its games in the arena at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
"It's really hard to believe" that the team is leaving today, said coach Ron Wojcik. "When I woke up [Wednesday], it was 8 [degrees] here and 52 in Orlando at the same time."
The Hurricanes will play a pair of games in Orlando against teams from Kentucky and Ohio. They fly out of Bradley International Airport in Hartford at 2:45 p.m., and should arrive in Florida around 5.
"It actually hasn't sunk in yet," said Hoosac player McKenzie Robinson. "I don't think it's going to hit me until we're at the airport."
As he finished packing, Wojcik was asked if he's relieved or excited the trip is set to start.
"A little bit of both," he said. "Definitely excitement, knowing how everybody was involved and just to get there took such a great effort."
It's costing Hoosac $20,000 to pay for players and coaches to fly to Orlando, stay at a hotel on the Disney property and pay for off-day tickets to Disney World.
Wojcik and the team have been working since April, when KSA first contacted him about bringing the reigning Western Massachusetts Division II champions to Florida.
"I contacted my booster club around that time and told them we had this opportunity," Wojcik said. "If we didn't feel we could make it, it was no big deal."
But the players, coaches and parents went into major fundraising mode and when the $20,000 mark was cracked in October, there was a major sigh of relief.
The seed money for the fund raising was procured when the team hosted campers for the 2013 Solid Sound music festival in North Adams back in June. The team raised nearly $9,000 at that time.
From there, the fund raising went from soliciting businesses large and small, to car washes, bottle drives and the like.
And now that they're on their way, Robinson said it was worthwhile.
"Absolutely," she said. "It was exciting, working our butts off with all the fundraisers with our mothers and fathers. It feels really good that it's all over."
The Hurricanes jump into the fray on Friday with an 8 a.m. tipoff against Trimble County, Ky. It's a team Wojcik said is 4-2, is a playoff team from last year and returns nine regulars. The second game is against Austintown Fitch High School from Ohio. Fitch is 7-0, ranked No. 11 in Ohio and has a Division-I player-to-be in 5-foot-10 guard Megan Sefcik. Sefcik has signed to play at the University of Akron.
Hoosac brings a 5-0 mark with its baggage to Florida. Wojcik said that among many things that has pleased him in the early going is the fact that his team really hasn't been playing like Florida is right around the corner.
"I had not talked about the trip during any of our first five games," Wojcik said. "I'm sure the kids had thought about it. I tried to go game-to-game.
"The girls have been incredibly focused on the task at hand."
That message got through to the players, and Robinson repeated it with ease.
"We're just going to go down there, play our game and do our best," she said. "We can't change our game. We can't get nervous."
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