Women’s soccer takes practice to Italy

(Athena Geldbach)

Truman State University Bulldogs soccer brought the term “summer vacation” to a new level when the team closed out its summer break with a trip to Italy. The women’s soccer team traveled to the major cities of Venice, Milan, Rome, Florence and Verona while also loosening up against some Italian soccer teams in preparation for the Purple and White’s 2018 season.

Junior midfielder Isabel Kurzban said the Bulldogs had a unique experience playing against the Italian teams, who used a more indirect, less physical playstyle the team had rarely encountered before. In addition to getting some time on the field, Kurzban said the trip also helped with team unity, as the players got to catch up on the last few months apart and integrate new freshmen into the team dynamic.

“We made a lot of great memories,” said Kurzban. “It was awesome to be in another country and experience a different culture… and play against girls from a different culture and see what their gamedays are like. I’m really looking forward to hitting the ground running and getting this season started.”

Junior midfielder Hanna Liljegren said Italy gave the entire team a preview of things to come, and she said she is excited to get this season started because of how well the team got along while abroad. Liljegren said the team won every game, and a lot of different players got the opportunity to score.

“We still have a lot of work to do — everyone can always improve — but we are looking forward to the season and what we can do,” Liljegren said. “It helps that many of our new players, the freshmen, got all their nerves out in Italy and will be able to hit the ground running this preseason. If we continue how we played in Italy and build on that, we should have a very successful season.”

Head coach Mike Cannon said the team did a good job of scoring while abroad, but high-scoring games can sometimes be distracting, and improvement is always important to keep in mind.

“We did well, we won and we scored a lot of goals, but we’re gonna see a lot tougher competition this year,” said Cannon. “They did well in Italy, but the competition there was a bit average at best… We need to make sure we keep securing more goals, but first thing to figure out is our depth chart — who goes where, if we’re gonna change formation — but I’m excited because we had a really great trip and had some great bonding on and off the field.”

Cannon said in addition to playing soccer matches, the team got to check out a few Italian stadiums as well, particularly the home field for both of Milan’s soccer clubs — A.C. Milan and Inter Milan — turf, seats and all. Cannon said the trip was a good way to introduce new players to the team before the start of school and orientation. Cannon hopes it made them more comfortable with the group and able to play that much more to their potential.

“Sometimes it takes into the preseason, even into the regular season before the kids feel more comfortable in the group, so hopefully this will accelerate that,” said Cannon. “On the field you don’t get to talk much, but when you’re walking around, shopping and getting lunch as a group, you get to know people better. It can be nerve-wracking being the new kid at college and away from home, so I think it was good for them to get out there together.”