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Middle school soccer team learns valuable lessons from Spanish tournament

Representing Wisconsin in Spain
Posted at 5:33 PM, Jul 13, 2023

OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — A group of local middle school girls got what their coach called "the chance of a lifetime" to play their favorite game overseas this month.

Erin Coppernoll is the head women's soccer coach at UW Oshkosh. This summer, she took a group of 16 U14 girls to play for the Wisconsin International Team at the Donosti Cup in San Sebastian, Spain. She says the trip gave the girls a great chance to learn about other cultures and play the game they love.

“This is an opportunity for any American kids to get over to Europe to see soccer because soccer’s a worldwide sport," said Coppernoll. "It really connects everyone.”

Sydney Michalkiewicz and Brooklyn Messerchmidt played forward and center-back for the team respectively. Michalkiewicz said "the different countries play way differently," which Messerchmidt said took some getting used to.

“We learned to score early, and then try and keep possession," she explained. "Because all the teams over there would score right away and then wouldn’t let you get the ball at all.”

The girls said they enjoyed getting to spend time surfing, sightseeing, and enjoying Spain with their families, as well as forming lasting friendships with their teammates.

For center forward Harper Neace, getting to take such a fun trip to play the game she loves, was a truly awesome experience.

“I’m so grateful for it, It’s just like so crazy," she said. “People don’t even get to travel anywhere, and I get to travel and play soccer, it’s just amazing.”

Coppernoll says her girls played well, winning their group and advancing to the knockout stage before losing. She thinks both the trip and the game of soccer, will continue to shape the girls for years to come.

“I think just the excitement of being in a big tournament like that for these girls and now getting the chance to watch a World Cup so soon after…the possibilities are endless of where they can go with the game.”