By Stephen Trembley
MELBOURNE, Australia -- The strong bond between Fresno State and Australia began its exciting next chapter this weekend as the Bulldogs' women's basketball team arrived in Melbourne to start an 11-day preseason foreign tour.
Over the past decade, 10 Australian natives have traveled to the Central Valley to be a part of the Bulldogs' program. Two of those Australian Bulldogs - senior Alex Sheedy and recent graduate Bree Farley - were just beaming at the opportunity to show their teammates their home country.
"We're so thankful that our donors were able to give us this opportunity," Sheedy said. "I'm very excited to be able to show my teammates where I'm from, especially being so far away from home."
The journey to Australia had been in the works for years and the realization of what started as a dream became a reality with private funding covering the costs of the entire trip.
To get to Australia, the `Dogs traveled by bus to Los Angeles, along with members of the beloved Break the Barriers program, who will deliver its memorable halftime shows during each of the Bulldogs' four games on the tour. A 16-hour direct flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne, where the `Dogs will spends its first four days, carried the travel party down under. The team will also visit Moe (Sheedy's hometown), Sydney and Cairns before returning home to the United States on Aug. 20.
After arriving around 10 a.m. Monday morning (Melbourne Time) / 5 p.m. PT Sunday afternoon (Pacific Time), Fresno State will take a sightseeing tour of Melbourne, get settled into its hotel and then head to a local gym for its first of three practices during the trip.
In addition to the extra practice time and competitive game experience, the championship-laden Bulldogs are benefiting from the chance for a roster filled with new faces and experienced veterans the chance to bond with each other.
"This trip is important for our coaching staff and players to get some valuable practice time and learn how each of how our players respond in game situations," first-year Fresno State head women's basketball coach Jaime White said. "It's a time for us to get to know everyone even more and see what we need to work on before the season starts."
With Coach White and an entirely new coaching staff in their first year, the time overseas is extremely valuable in accelerating the development of a team looking to defend seven consecutive conference championships and return to the NCAA Tournament for an eighth straight season.
Fresno State will play its first game of the tour Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. (Melbourne Time), which translates to a tip off of 2:30 a.m. PT (back in Fresno) due to the 17-hour time difference between California and Melbourne.
For live in-game updates, fans can follow @FresnoStateWBB and use the hashtag #DogsDownUnder.
"Be Bold." -- To stay connected with the #DogsDownUnder, be sure to follow @FresnoStateWBB on Twitter and continue visiting www.GoBulldogs.com for updates direct from Australia.
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