Women's soccer scores competition, cultural studies in Europe

soccer sceneThe Oswego State women’s soccer team headed to Spain and Portugal for spring-break competition, connections and cultural studies, the first of what may be increased athletics abroad opportunities.

Erin DeMarco, coach of the women’s soccer team, said other colleges coordinate team trips and she decided it could benefit her players athletically and intellectually.

“I didn’t want it to be just about soccer, but to see soccer as cultural experience in another country,” DeMarco explained. “Europe has an amazing sense of history.”

Most student-athletes are too busy with academics, their sport season and off-season conditioning to pursue a full study-abroad experience, she said. But a condensed international experience, which the NCAA would allow teams to take every three years, seemed the best of both worlds. The opportunity could also serve as a recruiting tool.

“A 10-day trip worked great,” DeMarco said. “You get to spend it with people you really care about.” The delegation included 18 players, soccer alumna Missy Verdoliva and six parents.

The Lakers faced Sevilla Futbol Club, a top-level club team, in Spain, and played 1º Dezembro, a club that 60 to 70 percent of the Portuguese national team has played on, in Portugal. The two teams performed at a higher level than anyone Oswego will face, but the Lakers learned about performing on and off the field.

“I learned that whatever situation you’re going into, don’t get discouraged,” said Kelly Spagnoli, a freshman biology major from Manorville. “Playing a foreign team is intimidating but after a few minutes of playing we were able to get into our usual routine and played like we know how to.”

The Oswego delegation also had the opportunity to see the U.S. women’s soccer team play—and defeat—Denmark 5-0 in Algarve Cup action. “That was one of the best times ever because we actually got to go watch a national game, and ever since I was young I have always dreamed of going to watch one,” said Ashlee Distin, a sophomore childhood education major from Fulton.

The Lakers stayed in the same hotel as five national tournament teams, adding to the international experience. “Here are some of the best players in the world eating breakfast next to our players,” DeMarco said. “It was good because you see how their represent their teams.”

DeMarco stressed that having the players rely on each other in a foreign country was a key part of the journey, and her players agreed.

“I think the most memorable part of the trip was not only taking our playing to a new level but being able to have a good bonding experience with the team,” Spagnoli said.

“Besides the events that took place, one thing that I will recall from the trip is how our team became so much closer,” Distin added.

SUNY Oswego’s athletic department and Office of International Education and Programs are working to develop quarter courses combining competition, academic coursework and cultural experiences abroad. The women’s basketball team plans one such trip to Italy next May.

The women’s soccer team would term it a winning experience. “After traveling to Europe, I’ve learned so much about different cultures and encourage anyone to go that has the chance,” Spagnoli said.

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PHOTO CAPTION: International competition—The Oswego State women’s soccer team enjoyed a spring-break competitive and cultural experience in Spain and Portugal. Shown waiting to get into the Lakers’ game against Sevilla Futbol Club, at the top-level team’s stadium in Spain, are (from left) Rachel McMaster, Jena Skivington, Kelly Spagnoli and Rosemarie Bernard. “I learned that whatever situation you’re going into, don’t get discouraged,” Spagnoli said of the experience.

(Posted: Apr 05, 2006)