The Husson University men’s soccer team boarded a bus Tuesday morning like it will so many more times this fall in pursuit of a North Atlantic Conference championship.
But for the Eagles this ride was a means to a different end than usual — a week in Barcelona, Spain, to continue their workouts, and sample the culture and sporting fervor of one of the world’s soccer hotbeds.
“It’s not like a tour, it’s more of a preseason camp,” said third-year Husson head coach Gavin Penny during a break during in his team’s bus trip to Logan Airport in Boston, from where the team will fly first to Philadelphia and then overnight to Spain.
“After we get to Barcelona we’ll set up shop at a resort over in the Costa Brava region toward northeastern Spain near France. We have a field right next door to us, and we’ll train twice a day, and while we’re there, spend the rest of the time relaxing around the pool and the spa and across the street at the beach.”
The Eagles, who reported to the Bangor campus Friday to begin preseason practices, also have two matches scheduled against Spanish club teams.
“We’re going to keep our two sessions a day going, training hard and focusing on the big picture of the season while we’re in a different country and enjoying a different culture,” said Bryce Hayman, a Husson sophomore from Gray.
The trip will not be without some tourism, albeit with a soccer touch. Upon arriving in Spain on Wednesday, the team will receive a guided tour of Barcelona Stadium (Nou Camp), the 100,000-seat home of FC Barcelona, reigning champion of Spain’s top soccer division, La Liga.
The Eagles will return to Barcelona — some 45 minutes from their Spanish base — on Sunday to attend a La Liga match between Espanyol and Valencia.
“I went to England a couple of years ago with my club team, Seacoast United,” Hayman said. “We went to an English Premier League game, and the atmosphere was unreal. I expect it’s going to be the same in Spain.”
NCAA Division III teams are allowed to take one foreign tour every four years.
This marks the first overseas trip for a Husson men’s soccer team since 2012, when former head coach Jeff Gettler and the Eagles visited Germany, Holland and Belgium.
“It’s something Husson has been very supportive of with its student-athletes and its athletic programs,” Penny said. “A lot of our teams travel, and we’ve been blessed. We’ve worked really hard in our fundraising efforts and raised a good chunk of change, and certainly a lot of that goes to offset the cost that came down to the students, so ultimately they paid a minor amount to be able to have a week like this.
“From an experience point, it’s about them and the chance to visit a different culture, especially one so engrossed in football and the game itself. To be able to go there and see the sights and be in a different culture and be together as a team and build up some team bonding ahead of the season is a great opportunity.”
The Husson contingent is scheduled to return home next Tuesday with the Eagles’ regular-season debut to follow Aug. 31 against Wentworth Institute of Technology at Boucher Field.
“We’ve got a quick turnaround before we open at home,” said Penny, whose team finished 8-8 overall last fall, 5-4 in North Atlantic Conference play. “But I’m pretty hopeful we can get back and rejuvenate ourselves to be ready for an afternoon kickoff on that Friday.”
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