FAIRFAX, Va., Sept 2-Although it was last-second heroics by sophomore Erick Perez-Segnini that clinched the GW men’s soccer team’s 3-2 double-overtime victory against Howard Sunday afternoon, the team can look back to a mid-August training trip to one of soccer’s capitals as the reason the Colonials came out on top.
“(Our) trip to England is probably why we win games like this, because you get that team spirit, that team bonding that you don’t get anywhere else,” said Perez-Segnini. “Everyone’s with each other (all the time) and that’s what it takes.”
The squad’s jump across the pond was five days of immersion in one of the world’s top “football” environments. The trip’s focus was to expose the team to a society that thrives on soccer, and thus the Colonials played and defeated three London-based teams, including an 11-1 goal differential over the three games.
“That was one of the reasons we went as well, just to experience the soccer culture. We were immersed in it for four or five days,” said coach George Lidster, a Briton who left Foggy Bottom briefly in 1997 to become an assistant coach at London-based Chelsea FC, one of the Premier League’s top teams. Because of his past connection to the team, Lidster was able to get the Colonials practice time at Chelsea’s athletic complex and two of the matches were played on the Chelsea Youth Academy Field.
“It was great in every aspect,” Lidster said. “It was good for the exposure to Premier League soccer. The facilities were world class – the opposition was great. The challenge was up in that the tackling was fierce. It was just great preparation. (There was) camaraderie, a lot of team bonding.”
Perez-Segnini called the game against Howard a “team performance,” and camaraderie could be what gives this year’s team a chance to return to the glory the Colonials saw a few years ago. In 2004, when the team’s seven seniors were freshmen, GW won the Atlantic 10 championship, qualified for the NCAA tournament and then upset North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., before losing to nationally ranked Virginia Commonwealth University in the next round.
The two seasons that followed were underwhelming, as the Colonials posted sub-.500 records and failed to quality for the A-10 tournament in each campaign. But if a 7-0 exhibition win over Virginia Military Institute and the American and Howard victories are any indication, the Colonials appear to be ready to reverse the troubles they found the past two years.
So if Lidster had to sum up the trip in one word, what word would he choose?
“Can I use the word awesome? Is that too generic?” he asked. “Let’s use the Guinness thing. It was brilliant!”
This article appeared in the September 4, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.