Bend It Like … The Belles

Bend It Like … The Belles

Don’t call it soccer—it’s football. Don’t call them cleats—they’re boots. And when you step onto the field at Manchester United Stadium, please call it a pitch. The Saint Mary’s varsity soccer team learned these lessons and more when they traveled to England and Scotland to compete, train, and sightsee this summer.

For junior Mandy Thomson, a communication studies major, the eight-day trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “It was a great combination of being able to play a sport that you love and experience something amazing abroad,” she says. By day, the Belles toured castles in Scotland and famous sights in London. By night, they played soccer and socialized with their Scottish and English opponents after games.

The Belles came home with a 2-2 record in matches against the Edinburgh Ladies, the Vixens, Crewe-Manchester, and the London Ladies Football Club. They trained with a coach who is certified by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and emptied their wallets at the Manchester United Megastore. Interacting with coaches and teams on the other side of the Atlantic was an eye-opener for Thomson. “Soccer isn’t as popular in the United States as it is in Europe, and so feeling people’s interest, being asked what positions we played, was a lot of fun,” she says.

Besides singing karaoke in the clubhouse, another highlight was the Belles’ final contest against the London Ladies. “We played really well, connected as a team, and put everything together that we’d learned that week,” says Thomson of the Belles’ 5-3 victory. Coach Caryn MacKenzie agreed, saying the European matches were good preparation for Saint Mary’s fall season. “Hopefully, the trip will motivate some players to step up and fill roles that they didn’t know they could,” she says. “It broke the ice for whatever’s ahead.”

Click here to see more photos and read the Belles’ UK trip blog.