The College of Charleston women's soccer team and head coach Christian Michner are heading to Trinidad and Tobago this week for a 10-day trip that will give them a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and play soccer internationally.
"We are all so excited about this amazing trip to Trinidad and Tobago," said Michner. "The staff and players have all worked extremely hard to turn this dream into reality. We are headed down for 10 days of training and games which we know will help prepare us for our fall season. We'll have a chance to go and experience so many cool things down there and I know that we will all take so much away from this trip."
The Cougars' 24-person travel party departs for the island country of Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday, May 17 and returns Sunday, May 27 after playing five international matches, engaging in community service and exploring the Caribbean nation's culture and landscape.
"This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I think it will surely bring the team closer together and help us prepare for the fall season," said midfielder Sarah Schaidle.
The Cougars can personally experience how the game of soccer transcends cultures when they go toe-to-toe with the Trinidad national team on two separate occasions. They will also face the U-17 Trinidad national team, the Tobago team and a combined team of all the age levels in the national team's system.
"I can't wait to represent the College of Charleston and show the other national teams what we are all about," said midfielder Haley Hutchens.
"We've been training hard leading up to the trip and I'm excited to see how we can compete on an international level," said defender Swat Dash.
The trip has been in the works since Michner arrived at CofC and is the product of a lot of handwork and determination. It nearly met its demise when the NCAA voted to ban team international travel over the winter, but when the vote failed the Cougars underwent an intense fundraising campaign to see the dream realized.
Through an auction at a CofC baseball game, an iPad raffle and generous contributions from the players and several donors, the Cougars raised roughly $40,000 to fund their trek.
During the trip, the Cougars will work at a wildlife refuge to protect and restore the wildlife habitats of the country.
"It's going to feel great to give back to the community since they are welcoming us into their country," said forward Sarah Cardamone.
The squad will get a taste of what the country has to offer through daily sightseeing and touring activities, snorkeling and glass-bottom boat adventures.
"I am excited to immerse myself in a new culture and especially excited to try the crab curry," said midfielder Maryam Buazza.
"This is a great opportunity for us to experience a new culture and actually play somewhere most people will never even get a chance to visit," added goalkeeper Taylor Avery.
Fans can stay up to date on the team's activities along the way through their team blog and Twitter accounts which the players and staff will contribute to.