The Post-Journal

European Vacation Just For Kicks

It’s late fall of 1999, the final meeting of the Jamestown High School girls varsity soccer booster club and Robin Bonfiglio and Cathy Moots want to talk to Coach Randy Anderson.They do so with some trepidation.

But their reason for wanting to talk to Anderson, one of the truly nice guys in area coaching circles, has nothing to do with complaints about their daughters’ playing time, nothing to do with the team’s won-loss record and nothing to do with the details of the season-ending banquet.

This is something different.

No girls athletic program at JHS has ever done what Bonfiglio and Moots are about to propose.

They take a deep breath…

Nicki Davis is more than a little bit excited these days. After all, there’s a prom to look forward to and the final months of her senior year at JHS to enjoy. But when she looks at the calendar that hangs in her bedroom, she’s not drawing Xs through each day in a countdown to graduation. The crossing-off ritual is for a far more immediate event – the Lady Red Raider soccer team’s spring trip to Europe next month.

“I started out when I went and applied for my passport two months ago,” Davis said. “When I came home, I knew this was real now.”

It’s easy to talk about visiting Italy and Germany and playing soccer games against club teams in those countries, but it’s another matter entirely to finally realize you’re on the verge of having it happen. So after more than a year of selling everything from candy bars to quilts, 18 members of the Lady Raiders, plus six adults, will be spending nine days, April 12-21, in Italy, Austria and Germany, alternating soccer with sightseeing.

Not a bad spring break, huh?

“If I remember correctly, Cathy (Moots) and I went up to Randy after that booster meeting and posed the question to him,” Bonfiglio recalled.

“He didn’t jump right at it. He kind of looked at us like we were nuts.”

At first glance Anderson’s concerns were understandable.

The budget for such a trip was in excess of $50,000, which meant a huge financial undertaking for the players and their families. But Bonfiglio, Moots and Toni Davis, who all had sons make a similar trip with the JHS boys soccer team in 1998, had confidence that it was doable.

“I didn’t jump on it only because I had concerns,” Anderson said. “I’m a thorough and organized kind of guy. Before I jump in, I want to know how it works.”

Anderson, a third-grade teacher at Ring Elementary School, quickly found out that Bonfiglio, Moots and Davis had done their homework.

Working with a company called Euro-Sportring, the JHS girls have quite the trip planned. They will sightsee in Venice and Rovereto in Italy; Innsbruck in Austria; and Dachau and Munich in Germany. They will also play soccer games while there, including a tournament in Rovereto called the Peace Cup. Teams in Jamestown’s division are from Denmark, Holland, Italy and the United States.

Led by senior captains Michelle Moots, Ashley Painter and Davis, the Lady Red Raiders are hoping to hold their own against strong European club teams.

“What I think it will do is continue the bonding of the players,” said Anderson, who had the privilege of learning about what the traveling party will experience during a five-day trip to Euro-Sportring’s world headquarters in Amsterdam, Holland, earlier this month. “The senior leadership is really strong. To replace their leadership (next year) is a huge concern. Hopefully, some of the juniors will step up.”

“My hope is these girls will grow as people, see another part of our world, how other people live and see how soccer is part of their daily existence… I think it’s going to be good for the girls to see it because it will validate all the hard work they’ve put into their soccer careers. “

In preparation for the games, the girls have played together in leagues at Family First in Erie and at the Lakewood YMCA. By all accounts, the Lady Red Raiders have played well.

“I’m not expecting to go in and win every game,” Davis said. “I’d like to go and hang in there, have close games, good games. I just don’t want to get blown away.”

Added Painter, “It’s going to be a rush playing in a different country against different teams. If we put our minds to it, we’ll do pretty well.”

Anderson is confidant the girls will play hard regardless of the outcome.

“We realize we are the first girls team from the whole county to take on this kind of trip,” he said. “We have to play hard to show ourselves well so when people hear about Chautauqua County, New York, they’ll know we’re a soccer team that plays hard, plays fair and are good sports.”

And good friends.

Anderson will be entering his 10th season as coach next fall and describes this team as one of the closest he can remember.

Bonfiglio, whose daughter Mandy, is a junior on the team, expects it to be an emotional trip.

“These girls are all extremely good friends,” Bonfiglio said. “The bond will be something they’ll never forget in a lifetime. They’ll share experiences that other people will never have the opportunity to do.’

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.