Trip exposes men’s soccer team to Italian art, ‘calcio’

While other students lounged beneath the sun, traveled with family or simply relaxed during spring break, the Pioneers men’s soccer team flew overseas and embraced the Italian culture.

Head coach Enzo Fuschino was born in Italy and wanted to create an unforgettable bonding experience for the team and also motivate them for the upcoming season.

Each player individually fundraised money for the trip. They swiped student IDs at sporting events on campus, sold scarves to friends and family and wrote to local businesses asking for donations. The university did not give any money to the team for the trip.

“Every player was responsible for their own portion of the trip, the school did not fund it at all, it was all player driven,” Scott Sibik, junior accounting major and starting goalie said.

Although the entire team did not go, over half of the players packed their bags and boarded the plane to Milan.

The team took full advantage of the seven-day trip and visited Florence, Milan, Pompeii, the Island of Capri, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. While in Florence, the team had the opportunity to partake in a training session at Italy’s national soccer team’s training facility, the Coverciano.

“We were able to get a training session with one of the national teams’ staff coaches,” Fuschino said. “The training session was very spirited and very lively.”

The team also toured the Museo del Calcio, Italy’s National Museum of Soccer, which had much to offer the players.

“Everything in the museum was donated by past players,” Sibik said. “There were pictures, Olympic medals, jerseys, pictures, cleats and goalie gloves. It was cool seeing how the uniform and the game has evolved from the early 1940s to today.”

The team was also was able to attend a professional soccer game in Florence, which was the highlight for freshman mechanical engineering major Lucas Aplin. The excitement of the fans at the Fiorentina vs. A.C. Milan game overpowered the unfortunate weather.

“I really enjoyed the Fiorentina game. It was pouring but it ended up being an awesome game that Fiorentina came back and won,” Aplin said.

The team was able to put their skills to work on the field and experience a different style of gameplay during their games against local club teams in Rome, Sorrento and Florence.

“We played three games from local clubs and our games were always very balanced and very competitive,” Fuschino said.

The Pioneers tied two of the games and won the last but they took more away from the experience than just a win.

“Getting a different feel for the game and playing an Italian team made me more eager to play again and made me more excited for next season,” Aplin said.

Another exciting moment during the trip was seeing Chancellor Dennis Shields. While attending to business in Rome, Shields took time out of his schedule to meet up with the team and spend the day sightseeing. He also cheered on the team in a local game they played in Rome.

“It was really cool to see how excited he was when he came to the game that we played. He was on the sidelines cheering for us and was a big part of the game,” Aplin said.

Although the season is still months away, Fuschino and the players agreed that this experience was a great way to build a foundation for the team and the upcoming season.

“We spent seven days together which is great for team bonding. I feel like all of us are a lot closer now,” Alex Bach, sophomore forensic chemistry major and Pioneer defender said.

The number of injuries last season set the team back, but with a large lineup of incoming freshmen and quality current players, the hopes of making the NCAA tournament next season are high.

“Chemistry is much more powerful than skills themselves and I think this helped build more chemistry,” Fuschino said.