Women’s soccer learns, bonds during Portugal trip

April 02, 2024

While many Trine University students travel over Spring Break, the women’s soccer team got to go farther than many, if not all, of their classmates.

The Thunder flew to Portugal for training and competition as well as sightseeing.

“The trip was an idea we’ve had for a few years now. It’s fairly common in the world of college soccer,” said Coach Gary Boughton. “The NCAA allows a team to sponsor an international trip for the team once every four years that includes some competition. Through a few friends who run a company that specializes in these types of trips, we were able to choose our destination. Portugal was highly recommended.”

The team played three matches, including one against Sporting Clube de Portugal (SCP), the boyhood club of Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

“There were a handful of Portuguese National Team players in the team that evening, and our ladies were given an opportunity to share the field with them,” Boughton said.

The Thunder also got to train with the coaching staffs of two Portuguese Primeira Liga (Premier League) teams, among the best in Europe: SL Benfica, which boasts one of the best youth academies in the world, as well as Portimonense SC.

Once in a lifetime

Players, most of whom had not previously traveled outside the United States, saw the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“The opportunity to see another country, while playing the most beautiful game in all of sports, was not something I wanted to miss,” said Darcy Satkowiak, a communication major from Lansing, Michigan.

“You could definitely tell that we were tourists and not from Portugal in the airport, but it was just crazy to think while walking through the airport to our bus that we were about to spend a week of our lives playing soccer and having a blast,” said Blair Wright, a sport management major from Bridgeport, Michigan.

“One of the first things we did was take a team walk to the beach,” recalled Andrea Lipic, a business administration major from St. Louis, Missouri. “I think this was when it hit me that I was actually in Portugal.”

Team members said they enjoyed learning the style of soccer played in Portugal, which is very different than the United States.

“It was an amazing experience to get trained by some of the best coaches in the world,” said Abigail Scheil, a psychology major from Indianapolis.

“Even though there was a language barrier between us and the coaches, we were able to connect through the game,” said Lipic. “The training sessions were intense, and expectations were high, but it was fun to see different drills and different coaching styles.”

“I really enjoyed training with the SL Benfica professional coaches,” said Satkowiak. “All of them were encouraging but they also demanded more from us.”

“I especially loved seeing all of the soccer fields scattered through the towns with people of all ages competing,” Satkowiak said. “It was special to see how many people love the game.”

She also enjoyed gifting one of the members of FC Ferreiras with a Trine Thunder shirt after their final match in Portugal.

Boughton said his favorite part of the trip was the training session and tour at Benfica Academy.

“It was surreal being on their grounds and watching their coaches,” he said.

Surfing, kayaking, ziplining

In addition to soccer and training, the team took surf lessons on the Atlantic Ocean, kayaked on Portugal’s southern shore, toured Lisbon and Albufeira on tuk tuks (motorized rickshaws), ziplined between Spain and Portugal over the Rio Guadiana and watched a SCP match against SC Farense.

“We were out in the ocean for literally hours just surfing, not wanting to leave and just having fun,” said Wright.

“The views from the (tuk tuk) tour were breathtaking,” said Satkowiak. “The surfing lesson, kayaking trip and ziplining excursion from Spain back into Portugal were all astonishing to experience. Each adventure on the trip was made even more special because my team was there with me.”

“Whether playing soccer or not, I was always having a good time with them and felt like it helped our team to grow closer to each other,” said Scheil.

Boughton enjoyed seeing the team “smiling and taking in the experience for themselves.”

“Five years ago when our coaching staff arrived, we had a vision for the program, and seeing opportunities like this one coming to fruition was really rewarding,” he said.

He said he hopes the players were able to create special memories while getting a new perspective on life in another country.

“I felt that there were some great team bonding experiences for us as well, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to do something like this again,” he said.

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