The Colorado State women’s soccer is heading to a land where it is taboo to say “soccer”. The Rams will spend their spring break experiencing the fútbol-crazed culture of Spain.
“We have an opportunity to really bring the team together and to really show something for it,” assistant coach Kelly Labor said. “These international trips really put a team out of their comfort zone.”
There is a different enthusiasm towards soccer in Europe compared to the United States, and the players are looking forward to that culture shock.
“It gives us a chance to see what soccer is all about,” senior Megan Speed said. “Especially in a place that it is such a strong part in peoples lives. It’s like our football. It gives us a chance to see how it’s different, or how it’s similar, and really take it all in.”
The trip to Spain will be a mix of business and pleasure for the Rams.
On the business side of things, the team is guaranteed three exhibition matches against teams from Spain. The team are still working with Premiere International Tours, the company helping put the trip together for the Rams, to determine which three teams exactly, but the goal is to face competition as close to the women’s professional league as possible.
“(Premier International Tour Group) are talking to the Barcelona women’s group, the Español women’s group, and then a third team we aren’t yet sure of what level,” Labor said. “It depends on their season, their availability, and their willingness to play an American side.”
In addition to getting the players a chance to compete in a new environment, the trip to Spain will help further push the Colorado State women’s soccer program into the light. Having just completed its third year of Division I play, the program is still in its adolescence. The trip to Spain is another building block in the team’s ultimate goal of becoming a top-tier program in the Mountain West.
“Our locker room is not the greatest, we really don’t have a field,” head coach Bill Hempen said. “But we have a great weight room, great academic center, and a great Hall of Fame room to do things in. We look at this as one more part, one more piece of the recruiting and building puzzle by showing the commitment of the university.”
It can not be all business, though. What is a trip to Spain without catching Lionel Messi in action? The Rams will be attending the second-leg of the Champions League, a match between Arsenal and FC Barcelona at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona.
“One of the things we wanted to show these kids is the passion the game can be played with and cheered for,” said Hempen. “And there’s a legitimate chance we’re gonna see Arsenal-Barcelona. … If I could a get a GoPro facing (the team) when they walk in, I mean the look on their face is gonna be priceless.”
The trip to Spain is open to all players from the 2015 team, including the graduating seniors.
“I’m not sure why Bill is letting us go, I’m just so happy that he is,” Speed said.
This year’s seniors played a major role in jump-starting the program, and Hempen wants to use the Spain trip as a token of his appreciation.
“For those kids, it’s a big old thank you,” Hempen said. “The seniors going is us throwing our arms around them and giving them a big old thank you.”
While the university has helped pitch in a little, the players are the ones doing the heavy lifting in paying for the trip. The team has set up an account on giving.colostate.edu to help raise money for the trip, with the goal being $4,000. They have currently raised just over $1,800. Donations are not for individual players, and will be divided amongst the team.
In addition to the online fundraising, each class, freshman through senior, is responsible for a fundraising event. The final event is Saturday, and will feature a 4-on-4 tournament open to CSU students in the Indoor Practice Facility. Students can sign up for the event Thursday and Friday on the Lory Student Center Plaza.
Unfortunately, the Rams trip to Spain is a members only kind of thing. So the rest of us will have to figure something else out.
Collegian Sports Reporter Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Chaddeutschman.