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England trip has Saxons brimming with confidence
8/25/10

ALFRED, NY -- Several members of the Alfred University men’s soccer team recently returned from a nine-day trip to England, where the team trained, played against local club teams, and watched two professional matches. The team returned with a sense of confidence as it prepares for its Sept. 1 season opener.

A contingent of 23 -- AU head coach Scott Miller, 15 members of the team, and six members of AU players Rigel Johnson’s and Nick Schneider’s families -- arrived in England on Monday, Aug. 3 and stayed in London and neighboring communities throughout its nine-day stay.

The Saxons played four games against small club teams similar in age and talent level and participated in several training sessions at facilities located in and around London. Some time was also spent sight-seeing. The group also watched two professional matches: Fulham vs. Werder Bremen and Manchester United vs. Chelsea. U.S. national team star Clint Dempsey plays for Fulham and is one of the top American players. Premier League powerhouses Manchester United and Chelsea played in the Community Shield Match.

Miller said members of the team were able to move close enough to the pitch to speak with Dempsey and get the star player’s autograph. “I have always liked Clint Dempsey and now I know why. He is a class act,” Miller said.

Members of the AU team who made the trip were: Johnson, Schneider, Cole Boje, Tony Gai, Justin Shardlow, Frankie Mannino, Cory Hall, Matt Ricci, Neill Bower, Eric Lavelle, Aileen Bennett, James Chrabascz, Ben Olsen, Kevin Morgan and Ian Kelleher.

Gai, a sophomore midfielder, said the trip was valuable in that it helped the team develop camaraderie and chemistry.

“England really gave the team a chance to better know each other,” Gai commented. “Chemistry is a huge part of the game and we are without a doubt the best in the conference in that department. This upcoming season will show how far we’ve come as a team. We are going places. “

Johnson, a sophomore forward, said the chance for the Saxons to play against quality opponents will help the team as it prepares for the regular season.

“The trip to England really gave us a great opportunity to test our skills against teams that have been playing intense soccer at a very young age,” Johnson said. “I thought England was a wonderful opportunity and I would most definitely do it again. We have grown into a powerful team waiting to be unleashed.”

The team returned to Alfred on Aug. 12 and began preseason practices in preparation for its 2010 season opener, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. at home against Hobart.