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FOREST GROVE – With final exams over, dorm rooms and apartments packed up and academic experiences on hold for the summer, members of the Pacific University football team are off for an international sports experience in South America.
Over 40 players, including 20 seniors-to-be, headed south this morning (May 16) for an 11-day trip to Argentina and Paraguay, which will include two games against all-star teams from both countries. The Boxers will play in Montevideo, Uruguay, on May 19 and in Buenos Aries, Argentina, on May 25.
The trip falls under a NCAA Division III rule that allows teams to travel abroad for competition once every four years. Pacific Head Coach Keith Buckley said the timing allows the program to reward players who have stayed with the program as it has built over the first three years of reinstatement.
"I thought this would be a tremendous experience to put an exclamation point on the career on our first class of players," Buckley said. "Football is a fledgling sport in Latin America and this is an incredible opportunity for us to help spread the game on a global level while having a study abroad-type experience as a college student."
After two days of travel to Uruguay, the team will practice on May 18 before playing against the Uruguay All-Star Team on May 19. The team will also have sightseeing opportunities in the Argentinian capitol in the days surrounding their game on May 25.
The team will be accompanied by three members of the coaching staff: defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro, offensive line coach Ian Falconer and defensive ends coach Marc Moody. Phil Lentz, a member of Pacific's athletic training staff, will also make the trip.
Pacific put together a number of practices in Forest Grove in preparation for the trip. Because of the personnel who were able to make the trip, there will be some players who will compete out of their natural positions. "The biggest element in preparation has been filling holes at a few positions where we lacked some depth," Buckley said. "We have some wide receivers play defensive back on this trip because of this."
The game in Argentina on May 25 have received considerable hype from Football Americano Argentina (FAA), which runs an eight-team semi-professional league in the country. The game will mark the unofficial beginning of the league's 2013 season and will feature all-star players from the league's eight squads. It is the second time that the FAA has hosted a U.S. college for a game. In 2010, the Argentinians beat Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, another Division III school, 49-0. The game will also be played on Argentina's Independence Day holiday, which could help draw a sizeable crowd.
Buckley hopes that the trip will not only help grow the sport of football in South America, but provide an important cultural learning experience for his players.
"I hope our players come back with this trip with a greater understanding of their place in the world and an appreciation for the people and cultures of Argentina and Uruguay," Buckley said. "Many of these students have never left the United States and may never get an opportunity to travel to a location like this again. I am so excited for them to have this two-week 'trip of a lifetime' with their teammates and friends while representing Pacific University."