​UB women’s soccer to take trip to Spain

Buffalo looks for experience, bonding in seven-day trip to Spain


The Buffalo women’s soccer team wants to continue its recent run of success.

And it will try to do so halfway around the world.

Following last year’s men’s soccer trip to England, the women’s squad now has its opportunity to travel overseas. The Bulls will travel to three cities – Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid – during their seven-day trip to Spain during UB’s upcoming spring break. Head coach Shawn Burke said the team is expecting to participate in “soccer-like activities” in six of the seven days of the trip. At this time, the team is still organizing what opponents it will play.

“This is great opportunity for the team, the program, the girls, everyone,” Burke said. “We decided to team up with the men and go to administration and see if this trip was something we can do. It’ll be a good experience for our team, both on and off the field.”

UB Athletics representatives did not immediately respond with the cost of the trip, but did say that the trip was entirely funded through donations. The men’s trip last year cost $90,000, and was also funded entirely through donations, UB Athletics said.

“The donors have placed us in a position to do something like that and we should take advantage of it,” Burke said.

Although the itinerary isn’t finished, the team will be playing international friendlies during the course of the week. Sophomore midfielder Julia Benati said the experience overseas will help the team’s newer and less experienced players get playing time while figuring out how they can help next season.

Benati said there are open spots on defense for next season due to multiple starters graduating this year, so the trip will be the first time to test out the new potential starting defense.

“They can make their mark and try new things without being afraid to mess up,” Benati said. “It allows them to come in and make plays and mess up without really fearing of messing up in a game that counts.”

Last year, the men’s soccer team traveled to England for a 10-day trip, spanning five cities. It was the first trip under men’s head coach Stu Riddle and it allowed the team to experience soccer on an international stage.

During the 2015 season, the men had their ups and down, but as the season ended the benefits of the trip became obvious. The men finished with an 8-7-4 record and 2-2-1 in the Mid-American Conference and almost won the MAC Tournament as they fell to Akron 1-0 in the MAC Championship game.

Burke expects to see similar success for the women after their trip, but he also see the trip as a way to emulate the men’s team’s ability to recruit players to UB. The men’s roster currently has three players from Europe, while the women’s team does not have any players from Europe.

“The recruiting aspect … just getting some ties out there,” Burke said. “You see it help the men’s team, it would be good to go down there and work on getting some international players and ties for the future.”

Last season, the Bulls finished with a record of 11-7-3 overall and 7-3-1 in the conference. After winning an overtime thriller against Central Michigan in the MAC Tournament Quarterfinals, the Bulls fell to Akron 1-0 in the semifinals.

While leading-scorer and senior midfielder Kassidy Kidd is graduating this spring, the Bulls will return five of their top six scorers from last season as the team is expected to have a balanced and experienced offense at the top.

While the offense is experienced and loaded, the defense will be anything but that to start the 2016 season. Along with Kidd, senior defensemen Jackie Hall, N’Dea Johnson and Kristin Markiewicz will all leave to graduation. Junior Angel Hart returns, but the Bulls will have several open positions in the backend on defense.

Burke wants to see which players can seize the opportunity while seeing who can be his team’s leaders.

“The two biggest things we want to see are leadership and who wants to take those starting roles,” Burke said. “Every year, we’ve had people in those roles, and this year, I want to see who can move into them right away. In [2014], it was apparent from the jump. Last year, it came on midway through the season. With the matches we get to play, we’ll get to see who’s ready right away.”

For all the things the team wants to experience on the field, the off-the-field experience of being in Spain is something the team will treasure and get to experience as well. As of now, Burke said he plans to take the team to a men’s professional soccer game.

Benati said that the trip will be great for team bonding, as the team will get time to be together after “being busy with school and homework.” As for Burke, he wants his team to get the most out of trip and remember that this is a special experience for the team.

“I want them to remember that this is something special,” Burke said. “The experience, different languages and learning soccer in a different way, it’s going to be great. Going to experience a different environment and seeing things from a different perspective.”

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HaynesTheWriter