Men's Soccer Blog From Barcelona

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The Holy Cross men's soccer team spent spring break in Barcelona. Here is their story, told by the student athletes:

March 9, 2012
By Pat McCann

Hello everyone. Junior Paddy McCann here. Today was the last day of our trip and what a bitter day it was. This morning we woke up following our convincing 3-1 victory over the very talented local side C.F. Vilanova last night, and spirits were high. We continued down to the hotel restaurant for what would be our last breakfast in a place where we had eaten like kings for the previous seven days. From there we packed our bags and assembled in the lobby for the last time. After what turned out to be a little bit longer wait than expected, we were on the bus to the airport. Our flight from Barcelona to our connection in Switzerland took off at 2:40 p.m. Spanish time, and after a hustled connection in Zurich and a customary game of musical plane chairs, we are on our way back to America. Therefore, as I sit next to our team's spiritual guidance councilor who's snoring can easily be confused with the rumble of the plane's engine - Steve Stefanak - I take this time to reminisce on the seven days our team spent in the brilliant city of Barcelona. 

The Holy Cross men's soccer trip to Barcelona was one that would be hard to match. Everything worked in our favor spanning from beautiful weather to the fact that we were able to witness first hand Lionel Messi make history scoring five goals in a Champions League match. Going into our adventure to Barça, we were reassured that it would be the trip of a lifetime, but I think it is now safe to say that it was much more than that. Every day was better than the previous. We were able to explore one of the nicest cities certainly I've ever been to and visit places like Montserrat and Camp Nou both of which are majestic for entirely separate reasons but somehow are a short car ride away from each other. It was as if God was playing favorites when it came to building cities.

On another note, on top of all our sightseeing and cultural immersion, the fact that we played some of the best soccer we've ever played was just icing on the cake. We played three very talented teams that would certainly be recognized in America, and beat a couple of them pretty convincingly while simultaneously playing some beautiful soccer in the process. It was both a great experience to step on the field over in Spain but also provided us with some valuable tools to bring along with us as we moved forward toward success with the program. Not to mention, the trip opened doors for a heightened team chemistry and camaraderie and allowed some of the guys to get to know their teammates a little better. To be honest we didn't know the young guys were so good with a pen, as exemplified by the previous blogs. Honorable mention certainly goes to John O'Hanlon's sharp wit and the extremely modest and highly accurate game analysis of Gavin Millay whose prose has landed him a summer internship with the National Enquirer. Jokes aside, the trip was certainly a memorable one for a plethora of reasons. You know things went right when guys are begging for the bus to the airport to never show up. That is always a good thing.

Looking back now, speaking on behalf of the team, we understand that this experience did not just appear out of thin air. We would like to thank whole-heartedly all the alumni, parents and friends who so generously donated both their time and money to make this trip affordable for us. You were the spine of the operation and we thank you for that. We would also like to thank coach Priestly and local guide Jan Torstedt who handled all the behind the scenes particulars of the trip and designated itinerary both at home and abroad, respectively. In addition, our athletic trainer and friend, Janine Ferro, was a great person to share in our Barcelona adventure. We thank her for taking the responsibility of essentially keeping an eye out for us and I think we can all agree that she deserves to probably hop back on a plane for a private vacation of her own after being the only woman amidst our group of guys. Let's just say she handled her own despite the lunatic committee being in full formation.

Also, a special thanks to coach Darren Gallagher who was a pleasure to have shared the experience with. Not only was he a great man to have around the team on the travels, and a virtuoso in the film field, but he also proved his ability as a coach almost immediately in playing a vital role in the team's overseas success - a collective success that will be one of the most important factors in the progression of the program moving forward. Finally, a major thanks goes out to our athletic director and brief travel partner, Mr. Dick Regan. It was not until almost a week before the trip did we realize the amount of time and effort he put into making this trip a memorable one. He took on much of the planning burden by himself and only advised the players to have a good time. In addition, his company on the trip was greatly appreciated and it was nice to see him having as much fun as we were; despite the fact that we were nervous he was going to develop a severe rash if he continued to wear that hideous Arsenal jersey.

Well, that is all for me and I leave you all extremely humbled and grateful for your support and generosity and hopefully our results on the soccer field and our reports of the fun we had will be enough to show our gratitude - at least for now. Thank you again and best wishes on behalf of myself and the Holy Cross men's soccer team.

P.S. If anyone would like to order the 3 Disk Rosetta Stone package set on how to speak Spanish the "Barthelona" way by Dr. Joey Curran and Dr. Kevin Meinert please contact Holy Cross men's soccer.

March 8, 2012
By Joshua Cintas

Hey guys, Ron Burgundy writing here about the final full day in "Barthelona". It started off with a late breakfast/lunch at 10:30 a.m., something they call 'brunch' here in Spain. After brunch we headed to the Camp Nou for the fourth time on our trip. By this time Xavi, Messi and I were on a first name basis.  This time we had the full guided tour, scoping out the locker rooms, the commentators box, and even walking down the players' tunnel.  After this, some players went back to the hotel for rest before the game while others got some last minute shopping in.

After these last minute purchases the team headed back to the hotel to pack our bags before we headed out to lunch at Sitges and eventually our last game against Vilanova de Geltru. Sitges is a beautiful little beach town right on the Mediterranean Sea. Here we were treated to arguably the best meal of trip, the Spanish dish of paella, which is a nice rice and seafood combo. Afterwards the team had a bit of free time to ourselves. Some went rollerblading along the promenade glistening along the boardwalk, while others biked and went and played on the swings. The manliest men on the team even had a dip in the icy Mediterranean Sea. Jordan Michael was showing off his beach bod, while Josh Cintas did a magnificent swan dive into the one-foot deep waves.

Vilanova is a club with a prominent history, currently plying their trade in the third division. The boys knew they were in for the hardest match of the tour with Vilanova fielding an all-most entirely professional team. It started out much the same as our previous matches with the Spanish side dictating play in the early stages with lots of possession, but no real penetration. And in the game of soccer, penetration equals winning. Holy Cross absorbed the pressure and impressed with some great counter attacking endeavor, with Jordan Michael getting on the score sheet with a deflected cross that left the opposing goalie flat footed and hopeless as he watched the ball fly past his feet. Holy Cross continued the pressure with Josha Cintas also continuing his fine form with another classy finish, nut megging the goalie. That's the way it stayed, with Holy Cross, the better team, going into the halftime break up 2-0.

Vilanova came out after the break with more gusto and looked to try out Kevin Meinert, who was making his first appearance in goal for Holy Cross after pushing through the pain barrier with a strained back. Vilanova finally got their break through with a misjudged long ball soaring over the Holy Cross defense to allow a Vilanova player to slide the ball past a charging Meinert. This did not deter Holy Cross however, with the boys picking up their game and continuing to link well on the counter. After a nervy last ten minutes in which a Vilanova player hit the post, Kevin O'Connell finally killed off the game with a powerful volley into the roof of the net with five minutes left in the game. Final score 3-1, and a very fine performance from Holy Cross who played spectacularly throughout the tour, scoring a combined ten goals and allowing only four.

After such a tiring week most of us fell asleep on the 45 minute bus ride back to the hotel, but that was not until after we electrified the bus singing various chants such as "Ole,ole, ole" and "The Huddle" which is the most famous chant of the "Irish" soccer team Glasgow Celtic, where Coach Gallagher had played back in the day.  Arriving back at the hotel relatively late, most of us just turned on a Spanish soap opera and called it a night to get ready for the 9 hours of traveling ahead of us on our final day of the trip. That's all for today sports fans, Ron Burgundy (aka Josh Cintas) signing off from Barcelona, Catalunya, España.

March 7, 2012
By Ian McGarry

Hello, freshmen forward Ian McGarry reporting in from Barcelona.  In short, day five of our spectacular Barcelona trip may very well be the most amazing of them all, so naturally I was chosen to write the blog for today. In all seriousness though, our team has been very blessed with such an unforgettable trip and we have bonded together throughout our stay here. Our exponentially growing team chemistry as well as our confidence on the pitch led us to a commanding 5-0 victory last night in front of an enormous and passionate crowd.

Today we woke up to another beautiful day in Espana and were treated, yet again, to the fine Spanish cuisine here at Eurostars Angli Hotel. After breakfast the crew loaded up in the Sacrest and departed for our tour of Camp Nou, home of Messi, Puyol, Xavi, former Gunner Cesc Fabregas and other fellow Catalans. Our tour began with a surreal viewing of the numerous trophies, boots, jerseys, and memorabilia of FC Barcelona players from its founding in 1899 up until present day. After gazing over the history and prestigious awards of the world renowned club, we were led to field-side seats where we spent a number of minutes taking in the sights of what many, including myself, call the most magnificent soccer complex in the world. Moving back inside the facility, we spent what seemed like hours watching highlight videos of Barcelona stars, past and present.

In conclusion to the tour of camp Nou, the group collectively emptied our pockets, or coach's, of every last euro on purchases in the gift shop. Two stories of Barcelona gear, uniforms, soccer balls, etc. ... You name something related to soccer and it was almost certainly there.

We departed the shop and headed to what many of us would agree upon was the best lunch in Barcelona yet at a little Argentinean place downtown. We were treated to a selection of food and desserts that were truly delectable. If in any need of further description ask Nolan, I'm pretty sure he still has a little whipped cream in his flavor-saver. As it turned out, the great food and Nolan's ridiculousness were not the only forms of entertainment. To put it simply, there was a little bathroom discrepancy issue, as well as a team arm wrestling tournament. What can we say, we want to win, no matter where, no matter what!

After lunch, half the group headed back to the hotel to rest up for the champions league game, while the rest of us went shopping at Las Ramblas in beautiful downtown Barcelona. After finishing our purchases we found ourselves emerged in a sea of chanting Bayer Leverkusen fans before heading back to hotel...interesting spectacle to say the least.
After rejoining the rest of the group, we were on our way to Camp Nou, (just as marvelous as before) for the big game. The match turned out to be even more intriguing than I think any of us could believe as Lionel Messi led FC Barcelona to a 7-1 victory, almost as impressive as the aforementioned 5-0 shutout by Holy Cross. Did I mention Messi scored five goals to set yet another champion league record? Too bad Leverkusen's keeper didn't have as good reactions to Messi's shots as Micky did with Baino's ice cream.

Smiles gleamed from all of our faces as we cheered, did the wave, and took pictures throughout the game, and carried over to our walk back to the hotel. Almost dangerously to our own safety though, as Brendan and Vinny had some extremely close encounters with those tricky Barcelonan street signs. The laughter and smiles following the match proved to be a perfect night cap for another remarkable day under the Spanish sun

Time to hit the hay for tonight, because tomorrow we'll be hitting the beach! Until next time - Ian McGarry, signing off.

March 6, 2012
By Gavin Millay

Hello, I am Gavin Hunter Millay, freshman defender, sharing my experience on Tuesday.  I awoke from my deep my slumber and gazed out the window at the beautiful Spanish skyline. The sun was out, the air was crisp and clear, and I heard the pitter-pattering of the young Spanish school children rushing to the nearby Sane Grane Elementary. I could sense that today was going to be a splendid occasion.

I showered, drank my morning espresso and readied myself for the trip to Montserrat. Whilst on the bus ride there, coach Gallagher stood before us gents and told the majestic history of Montserrat. We boys were astounded at the thrilling tale and became even more ecstatic as we approached the glorious mountain….and then I saw it. A mountain so distinct, so prominent, that I felt truly blessed simply to gaze upon its glory. We reached the small village atop Montserrat breathless and in awe. Our tour guide pointed us in the direction of a cable car, which we rode to a peak of 4,000 feet. We took pictures of the incredible views and fascinating geography and everyone was so intrigued by the spectacle that we missed our ride down. After a brief wait, we descended the mountain and quickly traveled to the ancient monastery. We were just in time to hear the live performance of the young and virtuous choirboys. You know when you watch a film and the main character undergoes a life-changing epiphany? Well, that's the kind of emotion these young boys evoked with their music. I even witnessed an elderly Senora, with a cane, weep tears of intense joy. Following the performance, we filed in line to see the  "Black Madonna," an iconic statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus in one hand and the world in another. Then we embarked to the gift shop, where I purchased splendid items for my loved ones back in Vermont, a land so glorious that only few are allowed to inhabit its mountainous terrain.

The overall journey to Montserrat was a smashing success and an enlightening experience. An experience, I, myself, will never forget but cherish for my entire life. The spectacles I witnessed not only focused my shakra but invigorated my competitive drive and a fueled a fire of desire that could not be quenched unless the team achieved a victory in our match against Ripollet Club de Futbol at 8:45 p.m. that night.

The Spanish referee's silver whistle pierced the air and the game began. The rowdy crowd made the atmosphere tense and pressured, as they jeered every time Holy Cross made a slight technical error or minor mental lapse. Our opponents, rumored to be fielding numerous professional players, dictated play in the early stages of the match, possessing passion and grace. However, Holy Cross managed to disrupt Ripollet's tempo with a very impressive counter-attacking display, spear-headed by the triple-pronged trident of Joshua Cintas, Kevin O'Connell and the mercurial Monty Sanders.

The pacey Cintas commenced the scoring at the 15-minute mark, with a fierce slash of his right foot (like Robin Van Persie, his left foot is his "strong" foot) that left the goalie stunned and embarrassed. More impressive work from the mighty Cintas created an opportunity for senior captain Jordan Michael to smash a right-footed volley past the bewildered Spanish keeper. Holy Cross' Gavin Hunter Millay galvanized the defense to a shutout first half and was characterized by coach Gallagher as "an incredible sparkplug that ignited Cross' skill, energy and agility."

Swaggering onto the pitch in the second half to hisses and degrading chants from the numerous locals, Cross pulverized Ripollet's weak interior defense and inevitably their once prominent pride. Joshua Cintas was again in fine form, lofting a cross right onto the toe of Monty Sanders, who rocketed a first-time shot past the goalie, beating him at the near post.

Kevin O'Connell also had a sensational performance, epitomized in his mazy 40-yard run that eventually setup Patrick Liam McCann for an easy two-yard tap in. Seeing their side embarrassed, the Spanish supports began to slowly file out. However, Holy Cross was not done. Josh Cintas again reigned supreme over the Spanish defenders with a chipped cross that Monty Sanders nodded home at the back post, putting an exclamation point on a stunning 5-0 Holy Cross victory. Signing off is Gavin Millay.

March 5, 2012
By John O'Hanlon

John O'Hanlon here, freshman on the men's soccer team. To start the third day of our viaje as they call it here in Barcelona, we were greeted with a stunning array of meats and cheeses for breakfast, where a muchacho named Taylor Esper went ham and cleared the respected plates. Oh, and yes I used that pun on purpose just in case you were wondering (I told you I'm clever Brendan McGill). As we finished the last crumbs on our plates, or the tea bags in Paddy McCann's case, we embarked on our real journey for the day.

After everyone was rounded up and Gavin Millay grabbed his water and Advil, our tour for the day began. Upon arrival at La Sagrada Família Church, jaws instantly dropped.  The church is one of the most magnificent spectacles in all of the catholic faith, besides, of course, the Holy Cross chapel. At the back end of the church we came across a little boutique, where much bartering and bargaining went on, mostly unsuccessful I might add, unless your name is Nolan McKeever or his self-proclaimed nickname Nolo as he likes to be called. This was certainly a sight we would never forget.

Upon boarding the Sacrest, our tour bus, or 'the sack' according to Jordan Michael, our team headed to Futbol Mania, one of the biggest soccer stores in el mundo as they like to put it (That means world for all you non-Spanish speakers out there). Seeing everyone run and skip with glee as they spotted their favorite soccer team apparel really brought a tear to my eye. Lucky for me, the duo of Kevin O'Connell and Kevin Meinert were there for me with tissues in hand. Vinny Garafalo liked everything so much, but sadly could not decide what to purchase with his freshly minted euros and ended up with nothing.

Afterwards, we traveled to a terrific Spanish lunch. We were once again given the privilege of being treated to the stylings of Wok Wok Asian buffet. Breaking Shane Garner's delicate little heart, we were forced to leave. Instead, we indulged in an identical restaurant suggested by Jan, our tour guide.

Then it came time for the soccer match against the Moroccan Futbol Club of Barcelona, the reason we came on this trip, right boys? We were in for a surprise when we arrived. The street was covered in Spanish cops, or policia as Ben Stiller points out. To our surprise, the Moroccan ambassador came to watch us play. My mom always told me I was special, but I never realized I was this special. So special in fact, the team and I shook countless hand from highly respected officials in Morocco (apparently everyone is a respected official because that was a lot of handshakes. They even caused Mike Thompson to get hand cramps, our only un-injured goalie). Holy Cross fell 3-2.  We almost tied it up when what would have been Dane Kenny's 2nd goal of the night was called off, ultimately cutting his celebration short… much to the relief of everyone there after seeing his first celebration. After the game the team went to a fiesta held by the Moroccans. We were greeted with open arms and tons of food. We danced, we sang, and shared stories. This was the Spanish culture at its finest. Monty Sanders even treated the crowd to some unique dance moves. Plus Steve Stefanak and Beau Gordon needed to say hola to their girlfriends back home.

All kidding aside, thus far this trip has been a once in a life time experience for me as well as the rest of the boys, just ask Tommy Uttaro. We are truly grateful for the time spent by everyone who helped to plan this trip, and I cannot wait for what's to come in the next few days. I know Shane Regan is very excited.

March 4, 2012
By Nolan McKeever

Hello, this is sophomore Nolan McKeever. On Day Two, after a strenuous battle with the alarm clock and a "fuerte" cup of Spanish espresso, we embarked for soccer practice at a field 10 minutes from the hotel. With a total of seven hours of fleeting sleep since our arrival, we were anxious to get out of the hotel and onto the pitch before the sun did. We were coached by Miguel, an amiable Spaniard with a large silver hoop earring who began his session with a series of sprints. He set up several possession-oriented drills and was impressed with our technical play, at one point comparing us to FC Barcelona. We understood this comment as a Spanish joke though after watching the real team the night before.

It wasn't long before we experienced our first injury when GK Kevin Meinert hurt his back upon squatting to tie his shoelaces. Practice ended with a full field scrimmage that ended in a draw, thus forcing us into a penalty shootout. With the score still drawn after ten shots (including a shocking attempt by HC #3 Josh Cintas that splintered the crossbar and a bit of left footed buffoonery from GK Evan Polanik) HC #11 Nolan McKeever stole the spotlight with his final finish. As practice ended, "Coach" Regan came to the rescue with huge jugs of water (which seemed a scarcity in this new country so far), and we returned to the hotel for breakfast and nap time. We were given a couple hours to eat and sleep and were told to report to the lobby at 12:00 p.m. for our first tour of the city of Barcelona. We were given a lively bus tour by our eccentric tour guide Jan (pronounced "Yan"),who had the tendency to scream and break into song at consistent intervals throughout the ride. Once we reached the town's center, he took us through the street to see the many different sights of the old part of the city that dated back to Roman times. . Our first stop was at the nearest convenience store where our thirsty team lined up around the corner to purchase drinking water (an attempt to prevent teammates from licking puddles for hydration). We made our way through the narrow passageways and alleys that lined the city and made sure to study the intricate detail of each striking building and Spanish woman that we passed in the street. Our second stop was a beautiful church (ironically, the Cathedral of Holy Cross - although it was written in Catalan), next was a row of modern-looking shopping stores and then a city square where the walls of the old buildings were cratered with bullet holes from past Spanish executioners. This is truly an incredible city! After further exploration and ample photo ops, we were left on our own to find lunch in the city. The boys split up among various Spanish restaurants nearby and, after a couple burgers and a few rounds of "water" from the rowdy pubs, we returned to the hotel where sleep was finally possible.

Two hours later we were treated to another delicious Spanish dinner of meats and chilled pasta. After dinner, Coach Regan told us that we were given three hours of free time in the city as long as we stayed in groups of four. Some headed directly for McDonalds, others to shop for Barcelona merchandise and still others to the darkest corners of the city. All returned with smiling faces and near-empty wallets. We had survived yet another day in the land of the setting sun. Tomorrow is game one against the Moroccan Futbol Club of Barcelona.

March 3, 2012

By Shane Garner

Hola, everybody! Shane "Baino" Garner here writing day 1 of the BARCELONA blog. I'm currently in my room with my roommate Beau Gordon watching the Spanish Soap Operas. Edgar has just recently cheated on his wife with his brother's fiance and... oh right the blog.  

Well we took off from Logan around 9:00 p.m. and embarked on our seven hour flight to Zurich, where we transferred onto the two hour flight to Barcelona. Needless to say all of the boys were extremely tired. Especially me, because I don't sleep on the flights...for fear of inception. But when we finally touched down in Barcelona, we were blessed with nice, 65 degree weather. Ohhhh Barcelona, the Windy City. A place where wine flows like water and beer flows like wine. After collecting our bags from the Cintas we met up with our tour guide, Jan, who took us immediately to a training session with a Spanish coach to get the jet lag out of our system.

Driving through the city to our training facilities I was in awe of this beautiful metropolis. Rustic towers sat against, new, sheik architecture, in between the mouths of two riverbeds. It was like God had personally had blessed this city with such awe and wonder. The streets seemed to be paved in and trash. Like in that movie, you know, the one with the black guy and the white guy who can't jump. And they shoot that dude with one leg. Anyway, where was I? Oh yea. Don't drink and drive.

The training session proved to be very refreshing as we got the bad touches out of our system and had some helpful training tips from our knowledgable Spanish coach. After the session we went to get some food with all the boys starving from the long trip. I was looking forward to some fine Spanish cuisine, then we ended up at a local Asian buffet. The food was really nice, however they advertised "The Best Crab Sandwich in Barcelona," I personally felt it was sub-par. It was the greatest case of false advertising since "The Never Ending Story."

After getting back to the hotel, showering and resting our tired legs, we got ready for the La Liga match between Barcelona and Sporting Gijon. The game and atmosphere was amazing with Barcelona coming out eventual winners 3-1. Seeing the skills of the Barcelona players highlighted the importance of patience when trying to break down the opposition defense. It reminded me of an old Spanish proverb I had heard earlier that day; the story of the grasshopper and the octopus: All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for the winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a racecar.

With everybody exhausted after the trip, the training and the long game we headed back to the hotel for rest, but not before I got to try the Spanish lottery. Purchasing a small scratchy ticket, the grand prize was $10,000. With $10,000 I'd be a millionaire! Then I could buy useful things! Back at the hotel now, drifting in and out of sleep deprived consciousness, so that's all for tonight though ladies and gentlemen. I need rest. 8:00 a.m. training tomorrow.