While snow hampered Big Rapids last week, the Caribbean was alive and well at Ferris this past weekend.
The Under 20 Haitian National women’s soccer team visited Ferris State on their barnstorming tour to play the Ferris women’s soccer team at Top Taggart Field.
The Haitian team is run out of South Bend, Indiana. Lately, they have played Aquinas, Notre Dame, IPFW and other schools in the midwest that now include Ferris State.
“I was honestly in shock,” Ferris senior, soccer captain and defender Hunter Dolan said. “When coach told use, I’m pretty sure I just stared at him dumbfounded and said, ‘Wait what?’”
The surprise of having an international friendly at Ferris turned into excitement. Over 200 people showed up the day after the annual Ferris Fest music festival to Top Taggart Field to watch the game.
Haiti took the contest 2-0 as they continue to prepare for the U20 World Cup, but the experience was the real factor when head coach Andy McCaslin scheduled the game.
“My goal is always to expose my players to certain environments that will engage them culturally but challenge them on the field too.”
11 players on the Haitian team made it to Ferris, but four were non-roster invitees. According to one team official, nine have yet to make it to the United States due to visa restrictions.
According to the same team official, effects of the 2010 earthquake are still being felt in Haiti, in that the facilities that Haiti has to train their players with are still damaged. It means Haiti has to come to America, presenting the ever-present problem of international travel to the United States.
Shek Borkowski, head coach of the Haitian U20 team, brought the entire team, the necessary assistants and team workers up to Ferris in a weathered 12-seat van the morning of the game, where they boarded again after the game to return to South Bend.
Several of Borkowski’s players played for FC Indiana, where Borkowski was formerly a coach. Borkowski won two league titles and two cup titles, which his Wikipedia page calls “One of the greatest feats in USA women’s football history.”
Some players on the Haitian side are currently 15 years of age, and were up against a Ferris team that played two games the day before.
“I think it was an incredible opportunity for our team,” Dolan said. “Not a lot of people in the GLIAC or really in collegiate soccer can say they’ve had the opportunity to play a national team.”
The Northland United soccer club presented gifts to the Haitian team before the game, and Big Rapids City Official Dan Rothstein read a statement before the game as well, welcoming the Haitians to Big Rapids.
Goaltender Ednie Limage finished with eight saves including a diving stop to protect a then 1-0 lead for the Haitian team. Dolan had Ferris State’s only other scoring chance when she fired a shot from 20 yards-out high and wide of the cage.
Most athletics have wrapped up by this point. Some are just coming to a close. The women’s soccer team, while falling 2-0, played a close game with a team on the bubble in terms of qualifying for the U20 women’s World Cup.
After the game, the Haitian team and their non-roster players packed quietly into their battered 12-seat van, still suited up from the game. To them, it was one in a long stream of coming games. Their van pulled out of the parking lot without fanfare as if they were just another team visiting the friendly confines of Top Taggart Field as they drove off into the breezy afternoon.