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St. Vincent soccer enjoys 'once-in-a-lifetime' trip

| Tuesday, May 29, 2012, 12:45 p.m.

St. Vincent sophomore Tenesha Corrales' recent visit to Costa Rica sounds like something out of a storybook or a Disney movie.

On a trip to her parents' native country with the Bearcats soccer team, she spent time with family whom she hadn't seen in two years, went zip-lining through the rainforest and took a catamaran tour with her teammates.

And she capped off the trip by scoring the game-winning goal in St. Vincent's friendly game against Costa Rican club team Liberia-Guanacaste.

"The feeling was pretty priceless," said Corrales, a Kiski Area graduate. "All of my family members were there to be able to experience it. I guess one of the recruiters for the national team was there, and some of the girls we were playing against on the other team were on the Olympic team and are in line to be on the national team. So it was a pretty good ego booster, but it was definitely a priceless feeling."

The Bearcats had a few of those priceless moments during their trip to Costa Rica, which lasted from May 15-22. The team spent two years fundraising for the trip, and players said it was well worth it.

"We actually left a lot closer than we were, which is a really good thing," freshman Abby Neish said. "The whole experience was fun, sharing it with each other. It was a lot of fun just being around the team."

St. Vincent coach Becky Stewart had wanted to take her team on an international trip for some time, and the decision to go to Costa Rica came about after Corrales joined the Bearcats. Several of Corrales' aunts and uncles from her mother's side of the family live in Costa Rica, as does her biological father's family.

Corrales' family hosted the team for a picnic and pickup soccer team during the trip.

"It was amazing to have my team -- people I care about -- meet the other side of my family, who I really care about," Corrales said. "Spending time with my family and playing pickup with them -- my little cousins all see (my teammates) as role models -- it was just a really great experience."

Stewart said she planned the trip for two purposes -- to educate the team about how big soccer is in other countries and to help the players bond even more.

She's confident it succeeded on both ends, as she said the team witnessed numerous pickup games all over the country.

As for the bonding: "How could you not bond on a trip like that?" Stewart asked.

The players agreed.

"During the season, it seems that we're just more focused on games," sophomore Lindsey Daniels said. "During the trip, we had a little more down time. I got to know people more because there's so many of us. We got to go zip-lining and go snorkeling, which are probably once-in-a-lifetime experiences for some people. And playing games against Costa Ricans -- that's definitely once in a lifetime."

The Bearcats played two games against Costa Rican club teams, losing, 2-1, to Codea-Alajuela and beating Liberia-Guanacaste, 3-1.

Stewart said the Costa Rican players' skill stood out, particularly in the game against Codea-Alajuela, one of the top-ranked teams in its division.

"They were pretty tactically smart, and they had pretty good speed," she said. "They didn't have size on us, but they were pretty fast."

The coach said she was impressed with how her team competed, considering the Bearcats hadn't played since finishing the spring season April 28.

Overall, she considers the trip a success -- enough of one that some of the players are already planning the next trip. The NCAA permits teams to take international excursions once every three years, meaning the Bearcats' freshmen may get a second chance at a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

"If everybody's on board, then I'm more than willing to help and organize and get the ball rolling on things and keep everybody's finances planned," Stewart said. "So if the team wants to do it, then I'm totally down with it."