Over the summer, two of Pitt-Bradford’s women’s soccer
athletes played the game they love so much in one of the sport’s meccas:
Gundlach and Tess Follman, along with other NCAA Division III soccer players, were
selected to play for Team USA, sponsored by USA Sports Tours and Events. The
organization draws Division III athletes from all across the country in
volleyball, basketball and soccer and provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience
in international competition.
women’s soccer coach Mike Idland approached the duo last year about the opportunity, and they
both jumped at it.
“I was happy that Dre and Tess took advantage
of the opportunity to go play in Brazil,” Idland said. “I think good things are
going to happen to a player’s game any time she has a chance to get around other
top players, especially in an environment like Brazil, whose culture is so
steeped in soccer.”
May 20, the two arrived in Orlando, Fla., with their new teammates for
orientation and training. Follman was the youngest on the team, which was composed
mostly of juniors and seniors, including many who had graduated just weeks
first day of practice was canceled due to lightning, but the team managed to
squeeze in a practice session before departing for Sao Paulo, Brazil.
a men’s and women’s team made the 10-day trip, and Gundlach’s parents and Follman’s
mother also joined the party of more than 40 people.
in Brazil, the group traveled by buses with some being more modern than others.
Many of the buses featured glass dividers separating the driver from the teams,
and not every bus was installed with televisions, something Gundlach and
Follman were accustomed to in the United States.
teams wasted little time experiencing their first taste of international
soccer, meeting the Jundial and Paulista Futebal Clubs their first day in Brazil;
the women won 1-0.
following day, the two teams visited the Divino school, featuring students of
all ages. The men scrimmaged the high school team in what Gundlach and Follman
described more as an
enclosed court with
netting. Students clamored for the players’ autographs and photos as they
toured the facility.
kids were crazy, just the energy and excitement,” said Gundlach, a senior. “We
were signing autographs forever.”
were played at night, and one game in particular was played on Astroturf, and
cleats were not allowed. Many of the women didn’t bring tennis shoes to the
match with them, and one player even went so far as to borrow a pair of shoes
from a spectator.
could go up to the turf and lift it,” Follman said. “None of us had shoes. I
had to use coach’s shoes; it was horrible.”
all had sandals,” Gundlach said. “I think if we would have had our cleats, we
would have won that game.”
group traveled to Rio de Janeiro on day six, weaving through the mountains to
reach the city. After checking into the hotel, they took in the season opener
of Vasco de Gama against Portuguesa FC of the Brazilian Soccer League. More
than 20,000 were there for the game.
was a section with flags and people jumping up and down, cheering the entire
game,” Gundlach said.
group sat in the visitors section, which was walled off from the home crowd,
and neither team, men nor women, was allowed to visit the Vasco team store for
fear they might be hurt. They were told to blend in as much as possible and prohibited
from wearing USA gear.
teams ate in Copacabana on day seven, “carb loading” for the next day. Many of
the restaurants the group visited featured pizza and pasta. They were advised
to never drink the water, both at the hotels and out and about.
spent the first half of day eight venturing up Sugar Loaf Mountain, taking in
the beautiful view of the city. That night they traveled to the Brazilian Naval
Base for their final games. Against more experienced competition, the women
suffered their worst defeat, 4-1.
was revealed by USA Sports Tours and Events Director Ron Smith after the game
that many of the women on the naval team would represent Brazil in the next
was pretty much their job to play soccer,” Gundlach said. “They were pretty
women spent their last day in Brazil taking in the Christ the Redeemer statue
and lounging on the beach.
wish we would have had more beach time,” Follman said. “I didn’t get to tan as
much as I wanted.”
Gundlach and Follman shopped the local markets and vendors, learning to employ
barter skills when dealing with the natives. Among the most notable items they
brought back were a ceramic bowl for cooking that Follman purchased and a
decorative knife that Gundlach bought.
the conclusion of each contest, the women would exchange Pitt-Bradford women’s soccer
shirts for jerseys and other apparel.
received a really sweet jersey,” Follman said. “Our last game they wanted to
trade our shin guards.”
returning to the United States, Gundlach and Follman have stayed in contact
with their teammates through text messaging, Snapchat and Facebook. In
September, they had the unique chance to play against one of their teammates, Alicia
Snyder of Juniata.
was a captain, and I went out for the captain’s toss and was like, ‘Hey, I know
you already,’” Gundlach said.
Sports Tours and Events has scheduled a reunion in Brazil in three years for
all former players, and both Gundlach and Follman expressed interest in going
“I thought it was pretty sweet,” Gundlach
said. “Not everyone gets to go to Brazil and play soccer.”