Villanova is getting a head start on preseason this week as they prepare for a 10-day trip abroad to Germany, Austria and Spain, a first international trip for a program coming off its first NCAA Tournament berth last fall.
“We’re the only team in the country that’s doing this right now,” head coach Tom Carlin said after training on Wednesday morning. “It’s a huge advantage for us.”
Teams are allowed to take international trips once every four years. The generosity of former Wildcat Sean Traynor, a 1991 graduate, made it a reality for this group of players.
Thanks to a recent NCAA ruling, it’s also a first for incoming freshman to be allowed to participate in an overseas trip. For Nova, that includes local high school standouts Max Zandi and Richie Schlentz and other newcomers like Vince Manzo from Michigan, Right to Dream Academy alum Theo Quartey and Carson Williams and Tommy Nealon from Texas. Highly-rated recruit Sam Rogers signed a professional contract with Seattle Sounders FC 2 earlier this week.
“It’s fantastic for us to be able to see what a bunch of incoming freshman look like in June,” Carlin said. “You have ideas of how they are going to blend in and fit in with the scheme but now we get to train with them and play games with them.”
Training started on June 10 and will continue through the 20th. The team will be overseas through June 30. While abroad they’ll play a match in Barcelona against fourth division side UC Bellvitge and take on BCF Wolfratshausen in Germany and the reserve team for Red Bull Salzburg and German club TSV 1860 Rosenheim at a tournament in Austria.
For co-captain Andreas Bartosinski, a native of Cologne, Germany, the trip will be a chance to experience a mix of both the familiar and unfamiliar.
“I’m looking forward to a new culture and also to playing European teams,” said Bartosinski, a senior holding midfielder. “It’s going be a nice experience for all of our players to see how soccer is approached over there.”
Another team captain, fifth-year goalkeeper Will Steiner, is personally looking forward to a tour of Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s home ground, but also for the chance the team will have to prepare not only to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, but to make a deeper run.
“Making it to the tournament was just a step and losing in the first round, it’s not that cool to do that,” Steiner said. “We want to be there in December, we want to be in the final four.”
The extra time training with coaches - captain practices are usually the only time players get together before camp opens in August - and the chance for the team to grow closer off the field should go a long way in preparing the team for a season that starts with a tough contest on the road at perennial power Virginia on August 25.
“You watch a Providence, you watch Creighton, teams we are playing with and battling every year, we’re right there with them.” said Steiner, referring to Big East rivals who have been successful in the NCAA Tournament in recent years. “It’s time for us to take that step and make that deep run.”
The 2017 College Cup, college soccer’s final four, will be played at Talen Energy Stadium on December 8 and 10.