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Mariella Santucci and Italy are on to the Round of 16

They take on the Swedes at lunchtime tomorrow

National Day in Sweden 2017 Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Following the MAC is hard. Following international competition is harder. Following women’s international competition that isn’t for a world title is the hardest.

Lucky for you, I am on it.

So our favorite Women’s U20 basketball team ran the table in their group in the European Championship. Why is Italy our favorite? Because Toledo’s Mariella Santucci is playing for her home country and it’s better than watching mid-season baseball non-theatrics. Since my birthday is in the middle of July, the MLB All Star game means I am a year older, and at least to me, nothing else.

Other than Ms. Santucci, do I have a reason to root for the Italians? My family has owned a pizza place for 40+ years, and I feel like I owe Italy for our livelihood. At some point, when I went out on my own, I worked with cement. So even though I have a German last name, I totally identify with the Italians. Throw in that I am a Catholic, and a full 33.7% of my friend’s have a last name that ends in a vowel, and I am comfortable rooting for the Italians in this competition.

Santucci is having a solid competition. In her last game, she had 6 assists and 2 steals. She hasn’t been scoring, but that isn’t really what she does. As she gets comfortable with her teammates, I fully expect her to take a more assertive role. Currently she is only playing about half the game.

At lunchtime tomorrow, I have a lot of things I should be doing. Instead, I am going to load up a few sandwiches and maybe a beverage or two, and follow along with this game at the official site. Why? Competition is great. Competition for national pride brings out the best and worst in the competitors. Since it’s not the Olympics or whatever, no one is really juicing or worse, so it’s just full on international competition with athletes that are the best at their respective positions. And one of them is now a part of the MAC. What’s not to love?