Friday, August 22, 2014

Guided tours of Toledo, Madrid and Behind the Scenes training

Friday, August 15

With only two full days remaining of the Swarthmore Women's Soccer Team's international training trip in Spain, Friday marked a more diverse and structured schedule than did our first day in Madrid. As always, the day began with a delicious buffet spread in the hotel lobby before the bus departed for the training site of La Liga's Getafe for a behind the scenes look at the professional club's training session. It was a great opportunity for both the players and the coaches to see such a high level team in the training atmosphere.

Up next was a guided bus tour of downtown Madrid. The team was afforded the opportunity to depart the bus on a few occasions. One such stop was at the Plaza de Toros, a historic bullfighting arena. While we were there, tickets were on sale for the 20,000 seat complex for a live bull fight that evening. We learned that although bullfighting was banned in Barcelona approximately 2 years ago, it continues in Madrid and other parts of the country. The common understanding among Spaniards is that one either loves or hates the sport. While we did not have the opportunity on this trip to witness such an event, it was really cool to see the arena itself.

We also stopped at Plaza de Colon (the plaza dedicated to Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America). The team enjoyed some photo opps, and the senior class specifically enjoyed posing as a statue. 

Next up was some free time for lunch where team members elected to go for a run, workout in the fitness center, walk around Madrid and/ or enjoy some snacks and coffee at the nearby Starbucks to use the free wee-fee (wi-fi). Priorities included checking Swat mail, upcoming RA responsibilities and the housing list, as we got closer to our return date to campus.

The final scheduled activity of the day was a trip to the historic city of Toledo (the former capital city of Spain). After an hour-long bus ride, the team experienced a guided tour that covered the architectural, religious, and historical highlights of the city. By chance, our visit coincided with the Assumption of Mary. Each year, on that day, the custom in Toledo is to drink water from the well in the church that once housed a statue of the Virgin Mary. After watching two older women demonstrate the ideal drinking technique, the Swarthmore women took the opportunity to stay hydrated, partaking in the provided H2O.

After the formal guided tour was complete, the players were free to roam the city to shop and find dinner. Afterwards, the women returned to the hotel afterwards to sleep and prepare for the final full day in Spain. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Match #3 vs. Rayo Vallecano

Thursday, August 14

For the third match of the trip, the Garnet women took on a formidable but friendly Rayo Vallecano. As was mentioned in the last post, our players were awed, initially, by the stunning facility at Ciudad Deportiva Fundacion. The complex was gorgeous, and the club's other teams could be seen training on the nearby fields as we warmed up to play.  

The technical ability and skills of the Rayo Vallecano women were clear even in their warm-up. The players and coaches of our squad knew that it would be a good experience to have a chance to take the field with such a team. Rayo Vallecano plays in the first division of the Spanish women's professional league, often contending for championships with some of the most talented women's teams in Spain, including F.C. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. In the last six La Liga seasons, Rayo Vallecano has finished in first three times, in fourth twice, and in sixth once. There are sixteen teams total in this top division.

While the final score of the match, 7-0, was strongly in favor of the Vallecano squad, the Garnet women held their own and played well against the talented opposition. The Swarthmore players were able to maintain possession of the ball and create scoring chances, despite the high pressure placed on them by the opposing defense. 

Standout performances by the Garnet goalkeepers should be noted. Both Reba Magier and Caela Long combined for 19 saves on the night, many of those saves showing remarkable athleticism and reaction ability against the Rayo Vallecano attack.

After the game, the Garnet players were happy to have had the opportunity to share the field with the Rayo Vallecano women. Several players expressed how much of a learning experience it was and how much they enjoyed playing with and against such talented players. Despite the language barrier, the Swarthmore girls were able to spend some time talking to the Rayo Vallecano players after the match. We were also able to take a group photo.

Overall, while the result showed a loss, the game was a great experience for the Swarthmore team, and one that they will carry with them back to Swarthmore and into the season.