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Owls take flight to Europe

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD While many teams throughout collegiate athletics travel to California or Florida for preseason training camp, the women's soccer team at Westfield State College (WSC) was granted the opportunity to take the football pitch with some of the best in Europe.

From Aug. 9-18, the team traveled to the Netherlands, Germany and France for a jam-packed schedule of training sessions, matches and sightseeing. The team played four matches and compiled a 1-3-0 record. WSC lost 4-2 against Club Nemelaer of Holland, lost 2-1 against Club Vorwarts SpoHo of Germany, lost 5-1 against Club GSV Moers of Germany and won 2-0 against Club Hurwenen of Holland.

In an interview with Reminder Publications, Head Coach Todd Ditmar explained that the trip allowed his team to learn European training methods and styles of play. He noted that the experience also allowed the players to bond by becoming a more cohesive unit on and off the field.

"I have high expectations that our team will do a lot better this year," midfielder Ali Pease said, adding that she hopes this trip will help the team to improve upon last year's record of 4-12-1.

Midfielder Katelyn MacLellan said she believes her team will be "a step ahead" of the other teams in their conference because of their European training. She explained that they were able to learn about the importance of the mental game and how to cope with the rigors of the aggressive European game.

"They use their body a lot and are very aggressive," Pease said. "They taught us a lot of tactics and team bonding. Hopefully it will lead us to a winning season."

MacLellan said their losing record in Europe is "not an indicator of a bad season," adding that it was about the overall experience.

Ditmar agreed, adding that the trip was about team bonding and improving their overall game and team chemistry.

He noted that the soccer team was granted this prodigious opportunity largely due to the efforts of WSC President Evan Dobelle.

"We usually send them to Florida [for preseason training] and it doesn't cost any more to send them to Europe and my attitude is it's [Florida] really just Westfield with palm trees," Dobelle said, adding that this opportunity also granted the players the opportunity to experience alternative cultures.

One of Dobelle's initiatives is to increase cultural awareness and study abroad opportunities for students at WSC. He has recently established the J-Term International Study Program, an 18-day academic term in January to Belize, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Poland, St. Martin and England.

Ditmar explained that National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regulations stipulate that teams are only allowed to travel to Europe once every four years but he is hoping that Dobelle will continue to fund such an opportunity for his team in the future.