Incoming international soccer players staying home for first semester

By Luke Lombardi and Shaun Chornobroff

International athletes have become a crucial part of collegiate soccer in recent years, with Rider benefitting exponentially from the boom of international athletes being recruited to play in the United States. 

Standouts like Florian Valot and Jose Aguinaga helped lead the Broncs to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015 and made immediate impacts after coming from Europe. Former women’s soccer midfielder Valeria Pascuet, who was the captain of last year’s team, was named an All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) selection as a freshman in 2016. She was an All-MAAC selection each year she played in Lawrenceville. But, this year overseas freshmen are facing a new reality. 

Under normal circumstances, foreign recruits would have already begun their freshman season, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to all overseas freshman soccer players deciding to stay at their homes for their first semester. Between the men’s and women’s soccer teams, four players will be spending their first semester of college overseas. 

According to men’s soccer head coach Charlie Inverso, the team is bringing in three players — two being from France and one from Morocco. 

The women’s soccer team is only bringing in one international freshman, Genevieve Ryan, who is from New Zealand, according to head coach Drayson Hounsome.  

“A lot of it has to do with COVID-19 and being able to get out of the country… flights are really expensive to leave New Zealand,” Ryan said of her decision to stay home. 

Ryan will spend the fall playing with Auckland United, a soccer club based out of her hometown in New Zealand. This decision is something that she and Hounsome see as an advantage, considering the team’s season got postponed to the Spring. 

“Genevieve has competed at a U-17 World Cup, so she is used to competing at a high level,” Hounsome said. “She is currently competing at a high level in New Zealand, so staying home for this semester will help her develop further than if she were on campus in New Jersey with the many training limitations and NCAA precautionary restrictions that are in place.”

“A spring season is actually better than a fall season, as you get to work with the team for the entire semester before playing,” Hounsome said. “For the freshman and those returning from injuries they will be better prepared to play in the Spring.”

Inverso sees the predicament the players are dealt with like a double-edged sword, explaining that the situation three of his players are facing contains both positives and negatives. 

“The game and the system is so different over here,” Inverso explained. “They’re getting good competition over there, but they also need to get used to the game and the system over here, because it is so vastly different.”

Despite this, Inverso believes his team will be in good shape for the spring. 

“I think we’ll be alright, we’ll adjust. I’m not losing any sleep over it,” Inverso said. “We always find a way to adapt to what’s going on, that’s just part of college athletics, you just have to adapt and roll with it.”

In a sports world that seems to be constantly changing and evolving, adapting may be more crucial than ever. Hounsome had to adapt after senior goalkeeper Carmen Carbonell announced via an Instagram post that she would not be coming back this fall to train with the team. Carbonell is still a member of the women’s soccer team.

When asked if any more athletes could possibly stay home or skip this upcoming season, Hounsome far from closed the door on the possibility. 

“For each individual, where they train or play this year very much depends on COVID-19 and the level of the virus in that country or state. If it gets worse in New Jersey and we are unable to practice or play in the spring, then we will look at the best situation for each individual so that they can continue to develop. If it worsens in other countries and soccer is limited or canceled then we could have additional players come over if New Jersey is a better, safer option,” Hounsome said. 

As a result of the policy approved by the NCAA Board of Governors on Aug. 21 allowing fall athletes to compete in any amount of competitions this year without it counting against their eligibility. If Carbonell stays home for the spring she will maintain a year of eligibility. 

Inverso said, “no one has indicated that they want to miss this season,” when asked about the possibility of anybody skipping the season on the men’s side.

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