Pura Vida – Frostburg Women’s Soccer Travels to Costa Rica
“It was a life changing experience,” junior forward Danielle Ferris said, after returning home from the Bobcat women’s soccer trip to Costa Rica over winter break.
80-degree weather and the beach seemed unquestionable to most looking to escape the cold weather at the end of January. Frostburg women’s soccer traveled to Costa Rica from Jan. 19-27. With three games, community service, and touring the world’s happiest country, the trip was certainly life-changing.
Bobcat head coach Brian Parker was happy to see so many of his players take advantage of the experience saying, “So many people say they’re going to travel until life hits and they run out of opportunities. It is a unique experience and a great way to get closer as a team.”
Junior goalkeeper Rhianna Lapen agreed and said, “The trip was an amazing, eye-opening experience and a great time to really bond with my teammates and coaches.”
The trip began as the team landed at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Greeted with the standard Costa Rican saying of “Pura Vida,” or pure life, the reality of being in Costa Rica began to set in. After the first team training and an orientation with the tour guides from Costa Rica Soccer Tours, the team went to the Estadio Rosabal Cordero Stadium to watch a professional soccer match between Heredia and Saprissa, the home team.
The second day began with a fruit-filled breakfast and a training before heading to San Jose to do a walking tour. Located in the western part of the country, San Jose is the seat of the national government and is characterized by its French-influenced architecture. While driving into the city, the tour guides told the team that the roads heading into San Jose were not made to withstand immense amounts of traffic, so during the work week the roads are made one-way to only be able to enter the city, not exit. The team drove past The National Stadium of Costa Rica which hosts the nation’s sporting events and concerts. It was the first modern stadium to be built in Costa Rica. San Jose has tons of parks that contain statues made to commemorate famous battles Costa Ricans were involved in to capture their independence. The tour guides mentioned that the abundance of trees and parks were to increase the country’s biodiversity. Costa Rica accounts for six percent of the world’s biodiversity. There was art and graffiti everywhere – even the colonial style buildings were colorful. Everything the tour guides pointed out, whether it was a theatre or museum, was filled with color. Nothing in the country was plain. The tour concluded at a small strip of shops overflowing with hand-crafted goods. Everything was hand-made by locals and the people were genuinely kind. The artists of Costa Rica have immense talent.
Sophomore defender Becca Phillip summed up the trip to San Jose by saying, “It still amazes me that Costa Rican people are so grateful and proud of their country despite being underdeveloped. I love how welcoming and kind the people were.”
That night the Bobcat women’s soccer team played the champion of the Costa Rica women’s soccer league, Moravia. The turf field was enclosed in the neighborhood. The view was stunning as mountains and colorful houses overlooked the field. The game finished in a 2-1 defeat for the Bobcats. Moravia took a 2-0 lead until junior forward Dani Ferris scored off a header from junior defender Kelly Richards’ corner to decrease the deficit. The Bobcats dominated in the offensive third but some big saves from the Moravia keeper kept the game at 2-1. After each game in Costa Rica, each coach selects a player from the opposing team who they thought stood out. Sophomore midfielder Gwen Schemm was selected as the game MVP by the Moravia head coach.
Parker highlighted the Costa Rican players as having an “admirable” individual skill level and a comfort level with the ball at their feet that was very impressive.
The next day the Bobcats had the opportunity to participate in community service at a Children’s Center in San Jose. The center services over 230 children – most come from single-mother homes and others are refugees from Nicaragua. The school runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and feeds the kids five meals. The parents or guardians pay a small amount for tuition, but the rest is covered by scholarships or donors. Despite the hardships the kids face, they came in with a smile and full hearts. The Bobcat players played tag, soccer, and other games with the kids in the hour they were with them. The players were also asked to participate in a traditional dance. The culture of Costa Rica poured into the Bobcat players. Ferris explained that the community service would be something that stuck with her because she aspires to be a teacher and seeing how happy the kids were was something she really enjoyed.
Sophomore midfielder Emily Rhinaman said, “Playing with the kids was an experience that truly touched my heart. It lasted an hour, but in that time, I really connected with them and felt like I knew them for so much longer.”
Before leaving the Children’s Center, the director reminded the Bobcat players to “always study, work hard and be brave” – this is something that women’s soccer will never forget.
After the community service and team training, the Bobcats suited up for their second game against the third-place team in the Costa Rican women’s soccer league, Dimas Escazu. Frostburg won the match 2-1. Junior forward Hailey Turney opened the scoring after junior midfielder Melissa Krofcheck connected with freshman midfielder Sienna Grau to get the ball past the keeper where Turney put it away. Dimas Escazu tied it up at one. Sophomore forward/defender Jesse Dunagan scored the winning goal after receiving a pass from sophomore defender Rylee Learn and dribbling almost half the field before slipping it past the keeper for the lead. Senior midfielder Melanie Bell was chosen by the Dimas Escazu coach as the game MVP. Bell said in reference to the award, “It was very rewarding. I feel as if it was a special accolade to end my competitive soccer career at Frostburg.”
The Bobcats transferred to the rainforest where they stayed near the Arenal Volcano. The active volcano is in the north-west region of the country. Looking out from the balconies of the Magic Mountain Hotel, greens and blues were all that could be seen. The essence of color is something captured in the beauty of the country. After dinner that night, the team visited the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Spa. The natural hot springs were warm, soothing, and relaxing. The resort offered a variety of heated hot springs and water slides.
The next morning, the Bobcats went zip lining in San Carlos. The seven zip lines overlooked a beautiful lake, mountains, and the rainforest. Green was seen for miles on end. One zip line took the players literally through the trees. While boarding the bus after finishing the zip line, the players got to see a white nosed coati, a member of the raccoon family. It came up close enough to let the players feed it. On the way back to the hotel, the bus driver pulled over, so the players could see a toucan that was hidden up in the trees. The beginning of the afternoon was spent shopping near the hotel with local hand-crafted souvenir shops. The kindness of the Costa Ricans was untouched. The people live life in such a simple manner, yet they live it to the fullest.
Lapen said that the part of Costa Rica that resonated the most with her was, “definitely the mountains and just seeing the simplicity of life in the region.”
That evening Frostburg women’s soccer played in their third and final game of their Costa Rica soccer tour against San Carlos. One of the players had represented Costa Rica at the international level. As they arrived at the field, it became noticeable that it had rained all day in La Fortuna. Mud puddles, what the players described as “small lakes,” took up the majority of the field. San Carlos took a 1-0 lead until Schemm played Ferris through on a long ball to tie the game up at one. The San Carlos keeper kept out multiple shots from Bell and the Frostburg attack. As the Bobcats pressed with multiple corners in the waning moments of the game, they were unable to find the back of the net. The match ended in a tie. Schemm was selected as the game MVP by the San Carlos coach.
After the match, Bell noted that the Costa Rican style of play was “more focused on the individual and that they’re players were all very skillful and confident to take players on.”
The third game concluded the soccer portion of the trip for the Bobcats. Parker said, “besides the invaluable cultural experience the players obtain, the soccer portion is just a bonus. It provides big advantages for the players and the coaching staff to try players out in different positions and new combinations of players.”
The final two days of the trip were spent at the Pacific Oceanfront. The first beach the players visited was a volcanic beach and had darker sand and water. Just across the rocks was a white sand beach with clear blue water and big surfing waves.
Grau highlighted that her favorite part of the trip was, “being able to go to three cities in Costa Rica that all showed different parts of the country; the city, the rainforest, and the beach. I liked it because we got to see more of the country and have difference experiences at each city.”
The final beach day concluded with the sunset overlooking the shore and off into the distance of the Pacific Ocean. In a way, the simplicity of the beauty of the sunset captured the essence of the entire trip – kindness can guide a simple heart to living a pure life.
Returning to the cold was a harsh reality the Bobcat players faced as they landed at Baltimore Washington International on Jan. 27.
For more pictures from the trip, please visit @frostburgwomenssoccer on Instagram or visit Costa Rica Soccer Tours on Facebook.