By Rob Rose
Deciding which college to attend is one of the most difficult choices a person will make in his or her lifetime. For Rider women’s soccer players Valeria Pascuet and Carmen Carbonell, their college experience is nothing like the average student’s. Pascuet and Carbonell both hail from Spain, which is approximately 4,000 miles away from New Jersey.
What makes someone from Spain — a country with soccer in its DNA — choose Rider? For sophomore forward Pascuet, it was the bond she formed with Head Coach Drayson Hounsome. They spoke via email and Skype, and he was the biggest factor in her decision to come here.
Carbonell, a freshman goalkeeper, credits Rider’s academic program as well as the success of the soccer team for her decision. As a rookie, Carbonell’s transition is made more challenging by the prominent role she fills for the team. She has played in each of the team’s first six games, starting four.
Both said the biggest difference between playing soccer in Spain and in the United States is physicality.
“United States soccer is very physical; in Spain it’s more passing and movement, but United States soccer is more contact,” said Pascuet. Carbonell agreed, adding that, as a goalkeeper, she had never dealt with this type of contact before the season.
Pascuet has started every game for the Broncs this season. She has also played a key role in helping Carbonell make the transition this season. Among the countless differences the players faced in moving to this country, the most difficult has been learning the language.
“It’s not very easy for us to express ourselves, and it’s very difficult to understand some expressions [our teammates use],” Pascuet said. While Carbonell agreed that the language barrier is an obstacle, she added that the distance from home and missing family is more challenging.
Luckily, they have each other and have formed a great bond. They often stay after practice together to get some extra reps in.
Although they had never played against each other or on the same team, they knew of each other before coming to Rider.
With Spain being such a small, soccer-obsessed country, the players at the top level are known amongst each other.
Pascuet and Carbonell have the same goal for the Broncs this season: to win the MAAC Championship. As for personal goals, Pascuet wants to improve her game while Carbonell wants to be the best goalkeeper in the conference.
Carbonell is on her way to meeting that goal, as proven by her performance in the first six games. She is currently ranked in the top 10 in goals against average, save percentage, saves and saves per game in the MAAC.
Although they are thousands of miles from home, Pascuet and Carbonell have joined a new family at Rider. Between their bond coming from Spain and having five other international members of their team and coaching staff, they are right at home.