International Athletes Sweden the Pot for Florida Tech

MELBOURNE, Fla. (Women’s Soccer) – Sweden’s largest soccer magazine featured a Florida Tech soccer player in the September issue of
Match magazine. Freshman midfielder Matilda Östergaard was featured with
Joel Gustafsson, of Saint John’s University in New York, in an article called “The American Way.”   Ulf Jörnvik, a writerfor Match, touched
on the advantages collegiate soccer can provide, namely the combination of a strong education and the chance to further develop as a soccer player.
Östergaard, who majors in psychology, told Jörnvik she values the priority American coaches place on academics. That teamed with the success of women’s
soccer in the United States, despite the national team’s most recent performance, provides an appealing option for prospective international students.
  The chance to study abroad can also be invaluable to a student and ensure future benefits. Employers often find a potential employee more attractive
if they have studied in a different country. While players develop their soccer skills, they can also improve their marketability in the working
environment.   Östergaard has proven to be a force in the midfield for the Panthers this season. She’s started seven of eight games played, scored one
goal and registered one assist for three points on the season. But Östergaard is just one of four Swedish players on the Florida Tech soccer team.
Sophomore midfielder/forward Therese
, freshman forward Amanda Hjalmarsson and freshman
redshirt Paula Lillsjö round out the Swedish Panthers.   Head coach Fidgi Haig believes the Swedish girls can bring a lot to his team. He lists
composure, creativity, quick vision, a desire to be a student of the game and focus as strong points in Swedish players as a whole, but he also marvels at
the differences between the four. He says they are completely different on the field.   “Matilda is very good on the ball under pressure. She has
great dribbling ability and high technical skills,” Haig said. “She can make something happen out of nothing, but she’s still getting used to the speed of
the game over here. Once she gets that under control, she’ll be twice as dangerous as she is now.”   Svensson is the oldest in the group and already
has one year of stellar play under her belt. Last season she started all 18 games for the Panthers and registered six goals for 12 points on the year. This
season she’s added playmaking abilities to her repertoire with three assists in addition to three goals for nine points in 11 matches.   “Therese is
more of an all-around player. She’s athletic and quick,” Haig said. “She has a tremendous left and right foot shot and she creates a lot of trouble
offensively with her speed.”   Hjalmarsson started the season providing offensive depth for the team, but in the past five matches has earned the
starting nod from Haig. It’s easy to see why. In less time, Hjalmarsson has equaled Svensson’s offensive output with three assists and three goals of her
own. She’s shown unmatched accuracy on passes, shots and corner kicks this season.   “Amanda is another attacking player, but she’s a much more
creative player,” Haig said. “She sees things very well and does tremendously well under pressure. Once she gets more used to this style of game, she’ll
make much more of an impact.”   When it comes to Lillsjö, there is already excitement brewing in anticipation of what she can add to a young, talented
team next season. She’s shown excellent speed and quickness in practice as well as strong tackling ability. She’s displayed such versatility that Haig has
yet to decide what position she’ll play next season.   “Paula is mostly a defensive player but she is full of energy. She covers a lot of space and is
a strong tackler. Of the four of them, she plays the most like an American,” Haig said. “She’s very physical but also composed at the same time. She can
distribute well. She’s also a good, vocal leader who can play many different positions.”   For all the attributes each girl brings to the game, Haig
believes they can also get better from playing in America.   “The game in the U.S. can help them because it is faster and more physical,” Haig said.
“The style, competitiveness and athleticism they face here can help them complete their skills.”   Each girl has noticed differences in the way
Americans play soccer. Hjalmarsson points out that due to the physicality, soccer can become a more individual game here compared to Sweden. Because of
that, Östergaard has noticed that American teams don’t necessarily use the same tactics a Swedish team might use. Svensson says the team’s success is what
matters most in Sweden and that there are times when a player might not even know their individual statistics. Lillsjö thinks that is a direct effect of
the Swedish culture.   “In Sweden, we don’t necessarily want to stick out,” Lillsjö said. “We’re happy in the background, and it isn’t necessarily
like that here.”   Despite some of the differences, none of the girls have really had problems adjusting. Svensson said she loves American people
because she is just as social as all of them. Lillsjö believes that American extroverts help make it easier to adjust. All of them agree that it’s hard to
feel homesick because everything is so different here. For that reason they aren’t reminded of home too often, but Östergaard does miss Swedish food. There
have been minor challenges along the way.   “They say math is the universal language, but it’s definitely not,” Östergaard said. “They have different
letters in different places and it can get pretty confusing.”   Svensson adds, “It might be the same thing, but it’s just done in a different way.”
  Language can also place an extra burden on the girls, who all have a solid grasp of the English language. Lillsjö points out that when they learned
the language it was more for everyday conversation. They didn’t necessarily learn the words they might need to know to succeed in science or other
subjects.   But on the field it’s all soccer. That’s the reason all of the girls wanted to come. It was the best way to do the traveling many of their
Swedish friends did, but still be able to play soccer. Soccer drives them all.   “In Europe, people grow up with soccer. It’s not just one of the
sports, it’s the sport,” Svensson said. “You want to play soccer from the day you were born.”   Östergaard even had her high school graduation
rescheduled because the Swedish national team was playing a soccer match.   Their drive and desire to succeed in soccer should help each of the girls
as well as the rest of Haig’s team. They’ve helped the Panthers compile a 7-4-1 record so far this season. Haig is looking to blend the Swedish strengths
with the strengths of his American players to make a formidable team. They’re well on their way.

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