FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – In five days, the Northern Arizona women's soccer team will begin an unforgettable journey to Spain in what will be the program's fourth European trip in the last decade. The Lumberjacks will spend 11 days in a culturally rich country, with many of whom have never stepped foot outside of the United States.
"It's my way to ensure they get the opportunity at least once during their career here, to travel, be surrounded with other students and go overseas to experience something a little different," said head coach Andre Luciano. "From a historical, cultural and soccer standpoint, there are a lot of great things about Spain I hope will give the team, now and as they get older, the opportunity to talk about, reflect on and become more globally conscious."
As the fourth European tour since 2004, Luciano and the Lumberjacks will take in the diverse geography and nature that make up such a conglomerate of Spanish culture. After months of fundraising and planning, the 'Jacks are headed for the trip of a lifetime.
In addition to various tours of cities, museums, castles and the like, the Lumberjacks will also have the unique opportunity to boot up in some international friendlies against four of the top teams in Spain. In their first game, NAU will square off against CDE Olympic de Madrid on May 16. The blue and gold will then compete in games against Rayo Vallecano (May 17), Agrupacion Deportivo Alhondiga (May 18) and CE Sabadell (May 23) before heading back to the states. Regardless of the result, the experience gained in competing at such a high level will only prove to benefit the Lumberjacks in the future.
"As a group we love and breathe soccer daily, but I think we will really be in for a treat when we see die-hard soccer fans who get to spend their lives watching pros play," said senior forward Adrian Nixt. "It will humble us as well and allow us to appreciate the game and the fact that we get to play everyday."
Being able to see how much the sport they play impacts those around the world will be an eye-opening experience to witness.
"I watch soccer whenever it's on and people in the U.S. don't really understand that," said senior forward Anna Goebel. "It will be nice to witness soccer as a priority and I think this trip will give me an even better perspective on the game I love."
This trip will provide valuable knowledge of more than just the game. The Lumberjacks will be fully immersed in an unfamiliar country, have to interact with people from various backgrounds and experience a culture different from their own. With hopes that each individual will be positively impacted, Luciano and the Lumberjacks prepare to embark on a journey abroad.
"There will be no trip in the Big Sky that will compare in terms of hardships and duration, and it will help shape our players" said Luciano. "One of the most rewarding things for me as a coach will be knowing they will get the opportunity to spend time with me and I will get to know them as well."
To top it off, the Lumberjacks will have the opportunity to watch FC Barcelona in their final league game of the season against Eibar. What would be a trip to Spain without watching some of the world's greatest players? The men will compete at the monumental Camp Nou Stadium on May 21. Camp Nou Stadium is the largest stadium in Europe and is the 11th largest in the world in terms of capacity (99,354). It is a stadium most soccer fans spend a lifetime hoping to visit.
The Lumberjacks are excited to depart and will be looking forward to their days together overseas. Fans can follow the Lumberjacks' tour of Spain at the trip central page here. Blogs will be written throughout the trip that can be found on the trip central page as well as the main nauathletics.com homepage. Photos and videos will also be made available as the team captures the sights and sounds of what is sure to be both a culturally and athletically enhancing trip.