The Catalonia region of Spain is home to one of the world’s most popular professional soccer teams, Futbol Club Barcelona, and is a hotbed of soccer (futbol) talent. As a result of the Belles’ visit, some of that talent now takes the field for ASU, with more potentially to follow.
Futbol or football, as soccer is called nearly everywhere outside the U.S., is the national sport of Spain and by far the most popular. Hoping to not only experience a different culture, but also new techniques and different styles of play, the Belles had scheduled matches against three of the 21,649 registered futbol clubs in Spain.
Based in Costa Brava on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, the Belles took time around their matches to learn about the Catalan culture and tour several popular sites, including the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Montserrat and the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat. They also ventured to the mecca of Spanish futbol, the Camp Nou stadium, home of FC Barcelona.
It was during one of their matches, though, that the trip took on a whole new dimension when the ASU coaching staff discovered Laia Pujades. Noticing her skill set, head coach Travis McCorkle decided to take a long shot and pursue her as a possible recruit. He was thrilled to discover that she was not only extremely interested in the opportunity, but also had the academic capabilities to attend ASU.
My dream had always been to play soccer in the U.S.A.
“My dream had always been to play soccer in the U.S.A.,” Pujades said, “so when Coach McCorkle asked me if I was interested in the opportunity to attend ASU and join the team, I did not hesitate to say yes.”
Pujades began her academic journey at Angelo State a year later in spring 2016 and started training with the Belles in preparation for the upcoming season.
In addition to adding Spanish talent, the trip to Spain and signing of Pujades also opened up a new recruiting region for the Belles coaching staff. A second player from Catalonia, Judith Verdaguer, expressed interest in ASU, so after checking her academics, McCorkle brought her into the fold this fall. With Pujades already on the team, the process of recruiting Verdaguer was much easier.
“Laia did an excellent job of communicating with Judith for us,” McCorkle said.
Both bring unique styles of play to the Belles and will provide additional skills to the team’s arsenal. They are hoping to assist the Belles in their quest for another Lone Star Conference title and a third straight trip to the NCAA Division II South Central Regional Tournament in 2016