Tuesday, 08 May 2018 23:06

ROSports Exclusive: Bornhorst, Whitley experience international soccer play during trip to Italy

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Julia Bornhorst (left) and Caroline Whitley (right) pose for a photo at Stadio Olympico in Rome, Italy, on their ACS trip last month. Julia Bornhorst (left) and Caroline Whitley (right) pose for a photo at Stadio Olympico in Rome, Italy, on their ACS trip last month. Photos courtesy of Julia Bornhorst.

ROCKINGHAM - Just over a month ago, two Richmond Senior High School students and Lady Raiders soccer players embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy.

During their spring break, junior Julia Bornhorst and freshman Caroline Whitley, packed their soccer bags and headed overseas for a sightseeing and soccer-filled endeavor. The trip, which was scheduled through the Athletic Club of the Sandhills travel soccer program in Aberdeen, N.C., lasted nine days that saw the pair of ACS soccer players visit three major Italian cities.

“It was much more than I expected it to be,” Bornhorst, a forward, said of the entire experience. “It was really cool to mix with the Italian teams and play with and against them. It was also a really cool cultural experience.”

Whitley echoed her teammate’s sentiments on the cultural excursion.

“The whole trip was a lot more than I thought it would be before we left,” Whitley, a midfielder, said. “We got to experience Italy’s everyday life and it opened our eyes to a lot of things with the differences in our culture and theirs.”

One of the biggest differences for Bornhorst was the more “freestyle” way of driving, noting that it was a necessity to make eye contact with the drivers to make sure they didn’t get hit. She also thought it was neat to see the amount of mopeds riding around the city streets. Whitley laughed as she explained that her biggest barrier was Italy’s lack of sweet tea.

Taking flight on Saturday, March 31, Bornhorst and Whitley started their trip in Milan, which is one of Italy’s fashion and economic powerhouses. While there, both girls “did a lot of sightseeing of churches and went shopping,” and also played in their first match against Italian players similar in age.

Part of the trip was to immerse the ACS players into what European soccer is like and give them some real playing experience. In total, Bornhorst and Whitley played three separate matches and played as an ACS squad and played inter-squad matches with the Italians.

While both girls noted that soccer is a universal sport, they said there were some hiccups when they mixed teams and played alongside the Italian girls. One of the things that was drastically different was the “focus and execution of footwork.”

Bornhorst (11) and Whitely (left of Bornhorst) participate in a clinic with two of Italy's national team coaches.

“It was interesting to try and figure out how they play the game of soccer,” Bornhorst commented. “They also stretched differently than us -- they’re much quicker and don’t spend that much time stretching before matches. But we were able to figure things out pretty quickly because soccer is still soccer.

“Even though there was a language barrier, we found that we could communicate not through just talking, but pointing,” Bornhorst continued. “We could point, make a run and play the ball where we wanted to. That’s the benefit of nonverbal communication.”

For Whitley, the soccer side of things was special because of the friendships she formed with the international players.

“I really loved meeting and playing with and against the other girls,” Whitley noted. “Now we’re all friends on Snapchat and Instagram. Seeing them and how they play was a different experience for me. But I was able to adjust to how physical they were on and off the ball.

“I learned that I need to be more physical when I play for Richmond and ACS,” Whitley continued. “I know now not to back down. I also realized that looks mean nothing and teams can still be really good even if they don’t appear to be that way.”

After Milan, the ACS crew traveled to Florence and Rome for a couple of days each. In Florence, the team participated in a training session with two of Italy’s national team’s coaches. They “worked on a bunch of drills,” including a square passing drill, one-versus-one drills, footwork, possession and finished by taking shots on goal. Also on their second major stop, Bornhorst and Whitley visited the Galleria dell’Accademia and saw the infamous “David” statue.

The final pitstop was in Rome, the nation’s capital. Both Lady Raiders noted that Rome was “a lot prettier” and “altogether very scenic” compared to any of the other places they visited. It was in Rome that the ACS team inter-mixed with the Italians, and both players explained that they switched between teams and learned the different style of play.

On their final night in Rome, Bornhorst, Whitley and the rest of their ACS teammates attended a professional soccer match at Stadio Olympico. While the host team Roma lost 2-0 to visiting Fiorentina, it was the crowd’s reactions that caught their attention. Having never experienced anything quite like it, both girls said it was a “wild” atmosphere that “had a lot of chanting” and “loud cheering.”

Out of everything the saw and participated in over the nine-day adventure, Whitley most enjoyed visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City because of its “beauty and statues.” For Bornhorst, it was the Roman Colosseum and ancient Roman architecture surrounding it.

“This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I’d be lucky to do it twice,” Bornhorst reminisced. “It was great to immerse myself into the Italian culture and see what life is like outside of the United States.”

“I learned not to take anything for granted,” Whitley concluded. “I now appreciate the little things and learned that people are more open-minded in other places around the world.”

Bornhorst and Whitley, along with the rest of their Lady Raiders teammates, will begin the 4A state playoffs Wednesday night at home. No. 13 Richmond, the highest seed its earned since 2004, will host No. 20 Porter Ridge High School (Indian Trail, N.C.). The match is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Last modified on Tuesday, 08 May 2018 23:38

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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