Over Spring Break, Wheaton Women’s Soccer took a trip to Buenos Aires to play some of the top teams in the Argentine Women’s Soccer League. This was the first time that the Wheaton Women’s Soccer program had traveled to South America. The last two trips were to Europe, Spain and Portugal respectively. All of these three trips have been a product of the programs fundraising account, with players only paying a fifth of the total costs out of pocket.
“These trips help our players learn the history, the culture and the people of foreign countries,” Wheaton women’s soccer head coach Luis Reis said. “It is a unique experience to be together with your best friends on your team which certainly helps with team chemistry moving forward.”
The Lyons played three of the top four teams in the Argentine Women’s Soccer League. These teams were at that point in pre-season mode and open to foreign competition. Their first game was against last-year’s league champion, UAI Urquiza. Nine of the club’s players are regulars on the Argentine national team.
“On each team they had players that were very skilled, fit, smart and technical; they played beautiful soccer,” senior Julie Beyar ’16 said. “We were excited to play these teams because we knew that they would be challenging. The level of competitiveness and intensity was present in each game.”
The second competition was against debatably Argentina’s most outstanding athletic club, Boca Juniors, who finished last season in third place. The game was played next to the club’s famous La Bombonera Stadium. The team had seven players with national team experience. The final game of the tour was played against Boca’s rival club, River Plate, next to their renowned El Monumental Stadium. River Plate finished in fourth place last season.
“The trip was helpful because the opposition exposed our weaknesses and it inspired our players to become more technical and spend more time with the ball on their own,” Coach Reis said. “We can now try and duplicate their style of play, which for the Argentines, is similar to the Spanish and the Brazilians, keep the ball on the ground and keep it from the opponent.”
Wheaton fell short in all three games playing with only 15 players in 85, 90, and 95 degree weather. Despite the losses, the team was able to compete against the best talent of Argentina, most of which have had minutes representing their national team. They also got the chance to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses against next-level competition.
“The ball movement and player movement along with the unselfish play was a joy to watch,” Coach Reis said. “I have a much greater appreciation for Argentina women’s soccer than ever before.”
Wheaton also had the opportunity to explore some of Argentina’s rich culture and history. They visited the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo and the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires along with some sightseeing and tours of the beautiful Buenos Aires.
“It was a great schedule that was perfectly balanced that gave people time to do what they wanted,” Beyar said. “We also stopped by the Argentina Flea Market, where we walked around for a few hours exploring through mazes of jewelry, paintings and other skilled and creative crafts. Our chaperones for this trip were also amazing and were a part of everything that we did.”
Wheaton also had nearly front row seating to a men’s Argentine Premier League Soccer game, Boca Juniors vs. Union de Sante Fe at the Bombanera Stadium. The game had over
49,000 home fans in attendance reflective of the true love and passion that South Americans have for the game of soccer. The match ended with a 90th minute game winner from Boca’s Argentine forward, Carlos Tevez, who has had over 70 caps for the men’s national team. He celebrated at the corner flag closest to Wheaton’s seating.
“We really got to see the celebration up close and personal,” Beyar said. “The atmosphere and fans were absolutely amazing because they sang the entire time cheering for Boca Juniors, even when they were down a goal. You could feel the energy in the stadium, especially when they scored the game-winning goal.”
A few other special members of our Wheaton community joined the team on the trip, as well.
“Having great people like Tim Cushing from our Admissions Office, Greg Steele, our Head Athletic Trainer, 2 alumnae, Kierstin Luber and Lauren Corigliano, gave our players a much greater appreciation for their contributions to Wheaton as employees and as former student-athletes,” Coach Reis said. “I know our players really enjoyed having them with us in Argentina.”
The consensus is that Argentina was very valuable and enlightening to all of those who took part in the trip. With women’s rights advancing in America more rapidly than most other countries, Wheaton Women’s Soccer got a glimpse as to how fortunate they are to have such unique opportunities to be student-athletes in America. This is an opportunity that almost all of the Argentine Women’s National Team players would do anything to have.
“These trips help our program because our players have the opportunity to compare what it is like to live here and be an athlete in the USA as opposed to other countries,” Coach Reis said.
“Our team had a chance to create a new perspective for the Argentine ways, food, people and the living conditions,” Beyar said. “It was extremely eye opening and was definitely one of the coolest experiences I was lucky enough to have been a part of.”