LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Many Bucknell sports programs head off campus to compete during Spring Break, but this year none will be traveling farther than the men's soccer team. For the first time under head coach Brendan Nash, the Bison will be headed to England where they will play three matches, attend a Barclay's Premier League fixture and experience the local culture.
The squad will fly to London on Friday, and on Saturday afternoon the team will attend the Southampton-Crystal Palace game at Selhurst Park. Next Wednesday they will gather with Manchester City supporters to watch that club take on Barcelona in the second leg of a Champions League final-16 pairing.
On Sunday, Bucknell will play its first exhibition match against Shenfield Sports Academy at the Harlow Town FC Stadium. Other games will come on Tuesday against the Derby County FC U-20 team and on Wednesday against the Bolton Wanderers FC U-21 Team. U.S Men's National Team member Stuart Holden had been playing with the Bolton U-21 Team before re-injuring his knee in a match last week.
"We have never done a trip like this, and with a young team we hope it will be a great experience for them," said Nash, who is an avid Premier League follower and has made several trips to England to see games. "We want them to go over there and dive into the English football culture. Our guys have been so committed to our spring season that they have not been able to do a junior-year study-abroad program like so many of their classmates. So we are going to try to compress into one week what many Bucknell students do in a semester."
In addition to the sightseeing and cultural opportunities, Nash is also looking forward to testing his squad against three high-quality English sides. A team that started eight underclassmen last fall posted a strong 13-6-1 record and defeated American 3-1 in the Patriot League quarterfinals before falling 1-0 at top-seeded Navy in the semis.
Bucknell's four seniors -- Mayowa Alli, Josh Butzke, Orman Kimbrough and Joe Meyer -- will all be making the trip, and Nash will be trying to get Alli as much exposure as possible in his quest to launch a professional career.
"These three games are important for us," Nash stressed. "It will give our young guys some valuable playing experience, and it will allow us to take a look at some different combinations."
Nash also noted that this trip would not have been possible without the support of the Bucknell soccer alumni.
"I've been saying for years that we have the best alumni support in the country, and this trip is a testament to their unbelievable efforts," said Nash. "We have a very active alumni group that is very engaged with our program, and this trip became a reality due to their fundraising efforts. I can't thank them enough."
Members of the team will be providing updates and photos throughout the week, and they will be posted on BucknellBison.com. Also be sure to follow @BUSoccer on Twitter for additional information.