Sept. 7, 2016
WASHINGTON - The scoreboard read Georgetown 6, Papua New Guinea 0. Georgetown forward Crystal Thomas (Elgin, Ill./Wheaton Academy/Notre Dame) scored four goals and the GU women's soccer team scored four times in the second half to cruise to a 6-0 win. But in the end, none of that really mattered.
On Sunday at Shaw Field, the Georgetown women's soccer team played an exhibition match against the U-20 team from Papua New Guinea, as the latter gets ready for the U-20 World Cup with a series of friendlies against American college teams.
The match on Sunday was the last of seven for the team from Papua New Guinea, an island in the Oceanic area of the Pacific Ocean north of Australia. The team from Papua New Guinea arrived in the United States last month and had traveled from the West Coast to the East, all in preparation for the World Cup they will host in November.
The Hoyas, meanwhile, were coming off a thrilling 2-1 win over then-No. 12 Rutgers on Friday night, a win that moved GU into the TopDrawerSoccer.com national rankings (No. 24).
While the game provided another chance for Papua New Guinea to test themselves and gave Georgetown Head Coach Dave Nolan to give some of his younger players a chance for more time on the field, it was the experience of interaction after that match that really made the day.
"Overall, this was a great experience for our women," Georgetown Head Coach Dave Nolan said. "It was a valuable chance for some younger players to log valuable minutes and test themselves in a competitive environment. In addition, it was a wonderful cultural experience to meet other young people from a completely different part of the world and share time on and off the field with them."
Following the match, the teams shook hands, but the full roster of 25 players from Papua New Guinea then performed a series of traditional dances and songs for the Hoyas. Before they finished, they had the entire Georgetown dance with them on a pair of songs.
For junior midfielder Chloe Knott (Auckland, New Zealand/Rangitoto College), it was something she was somewhat familiar with, having grown up in that region of the world.
"It was great to see the PNG girls dance and sing for us," Knott said. "I hadn't heard or seen any of the dances or songs, but every time I have played against a team from the Oceaniac Islands, the teams always have so much energy and are really charismatic on the field. When Dave told us that PNG wanted to dance with us, I knew it was going to be a really fun experience for both teams."
Afterward, the teams were able to talk for a bit before coming down to the Thompson Center for a meal together before Papua New Guinea headed back to its hotel. It wasn't just a chance to eat, but also to learn a bit about each other.
"The PNG team told me that more than 860 languages were spoken throughout the country and that they pretty much all communicated with each other using English or Pigeon (the common PNG tongue) because they all grew up knowing different languages," graduate student Marina Paul (Aliso Viejo, Calif./Laguna Beach) said. "To me, this made their rituals that much more special because these women Ã¢â'¬" who grew up in all different villages, speaking all different languages, and coming from different sub-cultures Ã¢â'¬" within their larger culture, delivered these dances with such pride and gratitude."
Papua New Guinea Head Coach Lisa Cole, a former college coach at Florida State, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Ole Miss, said the chance for her team to not only play, but to experience the American culture was worth the trip.
"So often in games like these, you come and play and there's a winning team and a losing team," Cole said. "But for our team to get a chance to play some higher level American teams and get a test of what it will be like in the World Cup is great for them. But then to have the chance to interact and see that, off the field, we're not all that different, really shows the true impact of sport."
When Nolan heard through the National Soccer Coaches Association that the Papua New Guinea team, coached by his longtime friend, was looking for games, he didn't pass the opportunity. Since the Hoyas had played on Friday in New Jersey, the weekend was open and it came together perfectly.
"I hope we were able to help them in their preparations for the U-20 World Cup, which they are proud to host and represent their country," he said. "At the same time, as we got closer to this friendly, I realized what a great opportunity it would be for our team to have a chance to meet and interact with some kids they may never get a chance to talk to again. It became about so much more than soccer. I'm glad we won, but the score really didn't matter."