Blog: Women's Soccer Travels to Portugal

Throughout its nine-day trip to Portugal, the Catholic University women's soccer team will be providing insights through a blog here as well as updates through their social media on Twitter and Instagram.

Friday, August 9

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Thursday was our final day in Portugal and we visited the wonderful town of Belém. Our first stop was the Belém Tower or the tower of Saint Vincent. This ceremonial gateway of Lisbon was built in 1519, composed entirely of limestone and it was built as a fortress that was part of a defense system for the military overlooking the Tagus River. We walked around the tower and were able to shop at some of the local shops that were set up surrounding it. These tents consisted of souvenirs such as cork purses, coffee mugs, tiles and wall artwork that most of us bought for our families.

Then, we headed over to the Jerónimos Monastery, a former home to the order of Saint Jerome located near the Tagus River. The inside of the monastery and attached church consisted of beautiful handcrafted stone architecture and stained glass windows. The tomb of famous explorer Vasco da Gama is also located inside the church. Our team explored the town a little more for lunch and Pastéis de Nata, a delicious Portuguese pastry that Belém is well known for.

When our time in Belém was done, we went back to the hotel to prepare for our final game against Sporting Lisbon, one of the top professional women's soccer teams in the Portuguese first division. Playing against Sporting was an amazing experience I will never forget and even though we lost, it was tremendous to compete against a team that performs at such a high level and plays a different style of soccer than we are used to. Sporting's head coach, Susana Cova, even took time to talk to our team after the game and thanked us for being a part of their preseason training program before their new season begins in a couple weeks.

Everyone then got on the bus, headed back to the hotel for dinner, and then went out for our last gelato of the trip.

Friday was our travel day back home to Washington, D.C. We had a simple breakfast at the hotel, took our final bus ride to the Lisbon airport, then said our goodbyes to our awesome tour guide, Pedro Pedro. This trip was a great experience for everyone. Now, we can get ready for the start of our preseason next week!

Maggie Moorcones

Wednesday, August 7

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On Tuesday, we started our day by going to the country's largest soccer stadium, Estádio da Luz, the home of Benfica. We had just attended the Supertaca match a couple days before where we got to see the talented players of the Benfica team against rival Sporting. Once at the stadium, Pedro Pedro explained to us how loved this team and sport is throughout Portugal.

We entered the stadium and were immediately taken back by its size, but even more when we entered and saw three eagles perched alongside the field. Our tour guide shared with us that before each home match, one eagle is trained to fly around the whole stadium and then land on the crest in the center of the field. The team really took to this tradition and thinks we should invest in some trained Cardinals for the new Carlini Field!

After our tour ended, we had lunch and time to explore in one of the largest shopping malls in Portugal which is across the street from the stadium. Our second game took place that evening against the Barreirense women's team. They are in the Portuguese second division and have players from their teens to their 30s.

It was another great experience playing against a Portuguese team. We came out on top with an 8-1 win, led by an outstanding performance by senior Elizabeth Johnson who scored four goals! Other highlights included sophomore Lily Behrens scoring her first two goals and sophomore Victoria Corte-Real scored her first with her family proudly cheering from the stands. Junior Bridget Buckley had one goal and three assists. The coaches were very pleased with the overall performance from everyone ... a great day for the Cardinals!

Wednesday started off with an early tour of "Parque y Palácio Pena" in nearby Sintra, a very popular attraction in Portugal. Pedro Pedro helped us get inside right away and by the time our tour concluded, there was a line out to the parking lot of eager tourists!

The beautiful palace was originally a monastery, but renovated in mid 1800s by King Ferdinand and Queen Maria. It was later restored in the 1900s, converting it to a museum for the public to enjoy. We were all amazed by the architecture and beauty of the palace and despite the fog surrounding the building, we were able to capture amazing pictures. Our bus driver then picked us up and drove us to the village of Cascais to explore and have lunch at our own leisure.

Since we had the day off from soccer, we decided to take up the challenge of surfing at Carcavelos on Portugal's coast. Beatriz organized lessons for us with her friends, who got us situated in full-body wet suits with surfboards. After a brief introduction on the beach sand, it was time to head into the water. We tried our best to stand up in the waves even though they may have seemed small in some of the videos. Some of us did better than others, but everyone had a wonderful time. The final decision, however, was that we should definitely stick to soccer. 

Makinsey Jarboe and Bridget Buckley 

Monday, August 5

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On Sunday, we were up early and excited for our first game here in Portugal. We traveled to Estoril where we played against a skillful, creative and speedy team from the Portuguese first division. Although we lost 3-0, we learned so much about the Portuguese style and we are excited to incorporate that into our play this fall.

Later that afternoon, we ventured down to the Algarve, where we attended the Supertaca, the Portuguese Super Cup between long-time rivals Benfica and Sporting Lisbon. Although our GA Beatriz is a passionate Sporting fan, Coach JP supports Benfica.

Our lovely tour guide Pedro Pedro took us to a lively Benfica Fan Zone (tailgate) filled with food, music and lots of face paint before the game. We quickly became Benfica fans and it just so happens they wear Catholic colors! When we found our seats, we couldn't believe the energy throughout the stadium. Songs, chants, flags and drums filled the air. The fans' passion was contagious. Benfica won 5-0 and its safe to say this team is its newest fans.

Today, we toured the new and modern part of Lisbon. This area used to be a on old industrial area, but after the World Fair in 1998, it has turned into one of the most expensive parts of the city. Now, this wasn't just any tour. We strapped on our helmets and hopped on our Sitgos for a wild ride.

Overall, it was a fun and different experience despite a couple bumps and bruises along the way. Mackenzie Crafton took a big spill and don't worry, we got it on video! Coach JP is looking to invest in Sitgos as it will be the most convenient mode of transportation up to Carlini Field.

We continued our fun after lunch with a typical stop for gelato!

We finished off the day with our third and final practice session here in Portugal. It was fun but efficient. Even tour guide Pedro Pedro hopped in as a goalkeeper. Yet another beautiful day in our new favorite city! Check back soon!

Meghan Corso and Madison Shelly

Saturday, August 3

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After a long overnight flight crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we touched down in Portugal on Friday morning where we met our tour guide, Pedro Pedro — that's his real name!

Jet lagged, we "installed" ourselves in our hotel rooms before wandering the peaceful streets of Lisbon and taking in our new surroundings at a small cafe down the street.

Our first training session was scheduled at 4 p.m., with JP and Beatriz and we all appreciated the beautiful weather here compared to the 100 degree humidity of Washington D.C. We might have been tired from the travel and time change, but the eagerness to play abroad gave us renewed energy to practice.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant was delicious and most of the girls then took the first of many trips to the gelato cafe, an obsession inspired by Meghan Corso's love for the dessert.

Finally, after what felt like two full days crammed into one, we settled to get ready for the adventure filled week ahead of us.

Our second day began with an early morning breakfast of Portuguese pastries and coffee before heading downtown for a walking tour of historic Lisbon. Pedro guided us through the colorful, lively streets up to St. Jorge's Castle with a breathtaking view of the city. Of course, we stopped for a number of photo ops along the way before ending up back in the downtown area.

Here, we ate authentic Portuguese cuisine (lots of fish, even octopus), walked through the markets and stores and found more gelato at the famous Santini shop.

After what felt like many miles of walking, we had time to relax at the hotel before our second training session.

Another beautiful evening of temps around 80 degrees with a cool breeze makes it easy for everyone to enjoy practice and we think we'd all like to stay in the fresh Portugal air for the rest of the summer, maybe longer. Today's training session has us ready for our first international friendly tomorrow morning against Estoril. Everyone is very excited to play our first contest of the 2019 season.

Tonight ended with dinner together at the hotel followed by the now daily tradition of gelato.

Check back soon. More travel updates to come from Lisbon!

Grace Boras and Halle Green