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The men's soccer team celebrates junior midfielder Mateo Zazueta's goal during the game against Rider at Rhodes Field on Sept. 2. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Keeping pace with the many home games of last fall, the Penn men’s soccer has been packing their bags and spending even more time on the road this 2022 season.

With increased bus travel comes a whole new set of routines, so two sophomores, midfielder Aaron Messer and forward Charlie Gaffney, gave us the rundown of what it is really like to travel to and from away games.

On overnight trips, the team practices the morning before getting on the noon bus to their destination. They usually depart the day before the match and spend the whole day traveling. Travel days that fall on Fridays can become tricky in terms of missing classes.

However, both Messer and Gaffney agree that “most professors are really understanding” in terms of missing classes for travel. The team as a whole is also very diligent in keeping up with classes, even on the road. 

On non-overnight trips, the bus rolls up to the away host school about two hours before kickoff, giving the team time to stretch their legs before warmups and acclimate to being off the bus. Warmups commence an hour before game time, and the extra hour is critical for the Quakers to ready themselves.

“The coaches want to give us an hour to ourselves to get in our routine and be comfortable before the game," Gaffney said.

The coaching staff of the men’s soccer team understands the challenges of balancing classwork and the intensity of game weekends. The day immediately following a game is typically an off day, where players can catch up on homework and get some rest. Big win streaks, such as the six-game streak achieved this past weekend, often award an extra day off. 

While away trips present challenges to keeping up with life on campus, there are several unique benefits that many players look forward to. 

“I enjoy the away game when we get to stay overnight, because having a queen-sized bed to sleep in the hotel is much nicer than sleeping on a twin in the dorm," Messer said. "So I make the most of the days where I get to sleep really well.”

Being away from campus and spending several hours on a bus together contributes to strong bonds on the team that translate to teamwork on the field. After getting their work done, Messer and Gaffney usually try to catch up on some sleep, or stream classic sports movies. 

Recently, films such as "Moneyball" and "Remember the Titans" have helped keep the sophomores focused on how to face their competition. 

“Watching these movies keeps my attention on the game," Gaffney said.

Aside from doing homework, watching movies, and catching up on sleep, the men’s soccer team enjoys other bonding opportunities while being on the road together. 

After the first trip away of the season, where the entire team travels, the team has a tradition of bus ride karaoke.

“Jack Wagoner pulled out some Sean Kingston. That was pretty good and got everyone going,” Gaffney said. 

With seven wins under their belts, the Quakers are proving that a schedule dense with on-the-road trips is a challenge the team is equipped to confront. The coaching staff’s methodology in handling the many away games this season and genuine camaraderie between the players on the bus is what has been pushing the men’s soccer team on an exciting groove. With the bus’s wheels rolling beneath them, the Quakers are well on their way to chase their goal of the conference title.