I’ve finally emptied out all the Czech crowns from my wallet and attempted to wash the post-tournament celebration stains out of my once-white Converse. I’ve found more Czech bills in pants pockets than I know what to do with, and every time I’ve gotten into the elevator in my apartment, I half expect it to be full of my screaming teammates. I also half expect it to get stuck or open on the wrong floor… No longer am I eating Nutella on bread or cereal with lukewarm milk for breakfast. I am not doing the spin cycle manually in the bathtub to wash my clothes. What a shock it was to stick a cup in the fridge door and get to choose WHICH kind of ice I wanted. And I don’t even know what to do with the AC; I feel like I’m in subzero temperatures inside my apartment.

What an amazing experience. Though it’s hard to pick the top experience of your lifetime while you’re still experiencing life, I’d have to say that this one is ranked pretty high up there. It all started almost a year ago during that first camp in Boston. We showed up, ready to get on the rink and instead we formed teams and did a scavenger hunt. That was a blast. That’s when I knew this team would be different. We formed, we stormed, we normed, we definitely performed, and now it’s unfortunately time to adjourn.

It’s so strange to be alone in my apartment after being surrounded by 22 other individuals for ten days straight. It was such an awesome feeling to be around a group of badass women. One of the coolest aspects of our team is that we all came from such diverse backgrounds. And to know that in “real life” we all have such varying talents and lives. I still think we could make a utopia or Themyscira, if you will, in which we all just train for Worlds. I mean we’ve got a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, teachers, trainer, etc. Let us know when you find an island for us.

Those ten days were filled with some awesome moments. Starting with our first of many dinners at Toscana (the best restaurant in Pardubice or at least the best restaurant in Pardubice that was willing to put up with a bunch of Americans night after night; thanks Hansa). Climbing to the top of the clock tower for an awesome view and a strange detour into a room full of really old weird dolls, which culminated in the most epic panorama ever (still talking about the room full of dolls, not the view from the clock tower). Stumbling upon an annual traditional Pardubice festival in the town square. On Saturday, we had our first of many pre-game dance parties (Thanks DJ Cherimix for the tunes). And our first (of at least two) come-from- behind victories, in a shootout no less. We like to keep it exciting for our fans.

The week continued with a dance party in the tournament “village,” a historic win over Slovakia, and an epic cool down dance party to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” which for some reason became our team song… not sure why, it just happened. Needing some inspiration after a tough loss against Canada, we went to see a movie. Not just any movie. It just so happened that Wonder Woman, the movie about a FEMALE superhero (traditionally clad in red, white, and blue), was playing at the local movie theater. The timing could not be more perfect. My teammates and I sat together in the movie theater watching a female superhero kick ass, periodically mouthing “HELL YES!” to each other. Afterward our coaches decided to ask the movie theater for some Wonder Woman posters to put up in our locker room, which were amazing additions to our already awesome space.

After beating the Brits to earn a spot in the semis, some of us explored the grounds of an old castle and hung out with a bunch of peacocks. Then our wonderful trivia extraordinaire, aka our teammate Lindsey “Bit” Bitler, led us in a night of specially curated Team USA/Pardubice trivia. And of course there was a dance party midway through the night because why wouldn’t there be?

On our day off some of us discovered a REAL breakfast place in Pardubice that served actual pancakes and egg sandwiches. We also went on a boat ride where we ate ice cream and cheered on rowers as they went past (we were yelling what we thought was Czech for “row” but they mostly just gave us strange looks).

Friday was amazing. We came from behind twice to beat Canada in the semi-playoff. I have never been on a team that can come back like we did. One of my favorite memories is running and jumping and hugging each other after counting down the final seconds in the game. It was incredible singing (albeit badly and too quickly) our national anthem together, arms around each other, after that tough win. I think most of the day I was in shock. We made program history again; finally the USA Women’s Team would medal, and not only medal, but get gold or silver. We were going to the final!

Then the big day came. I can’t speak for the rest of my teammates, but I know I was extremely nervous. We were playing the Czech Republic in the Czech Republic for the gold medal. Not only was it being televised, but there also happened to be a record-breaking crowd of 3,256 people there. Pre-game we walked onto the rink between two machines shooting fire up into the air as the deafening sound of the mostly Czech crowd (horns, drums and all) engulfed us. Needless to say this did not help my nerves, but it felt so amazing to play in front of a crowd that big in such a big game. After scoring first, we fell behind and again, like in so many other games, we came back. And again, they took the lead, and again we came back and tied it up with a few minutes to go in the game. After pushing the Czechs into overtime, they scored a few minutes in. Though we were disappointed at the time, I look back on that game now and think how exciting it was and how hard we worked. Silver medals are the strangest medals to receive for team sports like hockey. To win a silver, you have to lose. So after receiving it, you initially don’t feel so great. But after a little time with it, you think of how hard you worked the whole tournament and how far you’ve come, then it starts feeling like something worth celebrating.

And celebrate we did. After the medal ceremony, we adjourned in the locker room together with our trusty staff and fearless coaches. This entailed everyone sharing a little sentiment about the whole experience, many of us getting choked up as we spoke or listened. Then we popped the champagne, poured it into the second place trophy, proceeded to drink out of said trophy, and actually fully began to celebrate all we had accomplished together. The festivities began in earnest.

All the players ran around outside the stadium trying to make jersey trade deals, while the beer tents supplied an endless amount of beverages. Billions of selfies and dance-offs and trophy drinking and a random Czech burger that was kind of weird tasting, but hit the spot at whatever time of night that was, later, the US men’s and women’s teams ended up in the clubbiest of clubs in little Pardubice. I don’t know the name of it; “it’s across from the kebab place!” was the only description we were given. And we had the most epic of dance parties to cap off the night. What a night. What a tournament. What a trip.

Thank you to all my amazing teammates, coaches, and staff for your energy, commitment, and sacrifice. You sacrificed so much of yourselves to reach our goal. I am so inspired by you and all that you endured and accomplished. Thank you to all of our supporters, those that were able to come along to cheer in person (Thanks Mom and Dad! You’re the best!) and those who cheered from afar. We could not have done it without you.

I will miss the team dinners and field trips to the grocery store to buy bottles of water (and beer/cider). I’ll miss that delicious thin crust pizza; Pardubice has delicious pizza, who knew? I’ll miss trying our best to say “thank you” in Czech as natives stare blankly back at us (looking at you Amber). I’ll miss those epic dance parties. And standing side-by- side with my amazingly talented, wonderful teammates singing our national anthem together. Thanks for the love and the laughs. You guys are the best.

-Eileen Meslar
United States National Women’s Team