Costa Rica bound: BSU women’s soccer team preps for first foreign trip
BEMIDJI -- When the Bemidji State women's soccer team returns for its 2013 season opener Sept. 5 against Missouri Western, head coach Jim Stone thinks the Beavers will come back better-prepared, physically and mentally, for the rigors of the upcoming season.
And maybe the Beavers will have picked up a little Spanish along the way.
Starting Tuesday, BSU soccer team will embark on its first-ever foreign trip when they'll travel to Costa Rica for eight days.
"We've never taken a trip like this before," Stone said of the upcoming journey. "We had a young team last year but this year we're a lot more experienced and I felt like it was the right time to do this sort of thing."
The NCAA allows teams to take a foreign trip once every four years, and this will be the Beaver soccer team's first overseas excursion. Eighteen members of the team are set to go on the trip.
But it's hardly a vacation for the Beavers, who will train for the upcoming season, get some exhibition games against some top-notch competition and also do some service work with underprivileged children.
"We're pretty excited," said senior captain Tiffany VanHaaften. "I mean, the soccer stuff should be fun but we're also really looking forward to doing the mission work at the same time."
"I think it's going to be great to do something with the team besides soccer," added senior defender Sam Lumberg. "We're looking forward to working with kids."
The team is scheduled to depart Tuesday for San Juan, Costa Rica. They'll spend some time in the city before traveling to some other areas in the rainforest and on the coast.
Stone has lined up exhibition games against two Costa Rican national teams -- the U-20 squad and the U-17 team -- as well as a club team from San Carlos.
He and the rest of the team think it will be a good experience against the best soccer players Costa Rica has to offer.
"It will be a great test," Stone said, noting that the two national teams have defeated Division I schools like Stanford and California. "We're going to be tested and pushed hard by all of these teams. We need it. I think it will be great for us."
Lumberg said she's interested to see the differences in the Costa Rican game.
"I think it will be cool to just play them and see how our styles match up," she said. "I know they're going to be good so we're thinking it will be a great learning experience."
Usually, NCAA schools aren't allowed to practice until a few weeks before their first official game. But if a team is embarking on a foreign trip, they get 10 days to train before the trip. That should give the Beavers a bit of an edge to start the regular season.
"It's almost like they get two preseasons this year," Stone said.
The team returns Aug. 14 then gets three days off before reporting back to campus three days later for the official start of preseason.
And for a team that returns 90 percent of its starting lineup from a successful 2012 campaign -- the Beavers finished 10-7-2 overall -- the extra days training should make the team even better this season.
"We have a lot of experience coming back this season," VanHaaften said. "I think this trip will just help us come together as a team."
"From a soccer and a human standpoint I think this is going to be a great thing for us," Stone said. "The soccer is nice, but the ability to help some kids and make an impact down there I think will be the best thing about the trip."
The team has scheduled one final fundraiser for today. The "Kicks For Costa Rica" event will be held from 6-8 p.m. today at the BSU soccer field.
Members of the team and coaching staff will be on hand challenging those in attendance to a variety of unique contests and skills challenges and will be available for autographs and photos. The team will also be selling hot dogs, pop and T-shirts to help defray some costs of the trip.