Historical summer for women’s soccer

Pamela London

Standing in the tunnel dubbed “The Theatre of Dreams,” our team looked out at the grass from the same place as the best clubs in the world. Overhead, the speakers blared the applause of thousands of rabid fans. “Welcome to the home of the team that has won 19 Premier League titles, Manchester United” rang in our ears.

After a four-hour bus ride through England, we were standing in front of Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. We were experiencing what it was like to be the best of the best.

This summer, 19 players, women’s head coach Heather Cato and men’s head coach Mike Washington traveled nearly 5,000 miles across the Atlantic to London, England for a three-week preseason training trip. With eight games scheduled against semi-professional and professional competition, our goal was to gain valuable experience working together as a team as we embarked on Cato’s second season at the helm of our program.

From our first game against Yeovil Town to a dogfight with Cardiff City to matchups against professional standouts West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa, our team made tremendous strides in discovering its identity: all while  adjusting to the new culture, food and backwards road etiquette.

Our competition on the field surpassed what we see every year in the Northwest Conference: Several of the teams play in the top divisions of women’s professional soccer. One of them, Aston Villa, is one of the premier teams in England.

The experience we gained playing internationally helped us grow as a team, but the time that we spent together bonded our group even more. Of all the idyllic things we did that day: spending a day in London, seeing the churches in Weston and eating chips with every meal: certainly checked an item off everyone’s bucket list.

Each player who has walked down that tunnel got there through his own journey. This trip was the first step in ours.

We experienced history. We walked in the footsteps of the world’s greatest players.

And this season, we intend on making some history of our own.