Playing abroad: Hillesland takes talents to Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s national team has the small South American country soccer-crazy right now.
Hillesland is in Costa Rica on a 10-day trip, where she’ll play competitively with an NAIA all-star team, coach under-privileged youth and tour the scenic country of 4.5 million. Costa Rica’s national team has advanced to the final 16 of the World Cup in Brazil.
“It should be a pretty cool experience, not just with soccer, but everything involved,” said Hillesland, who will be a senior this fall for the Jimmies. “I got an email with an invitation one day and it looked kinda cool and now here I am getting to go.”
The trip will last 10 days and she’ll return on July 4 after a second 15-hour flight. The schedule is full of activities between now and then.
“It’s a busy schedule, but there are a lot of things I’m looking forward to,” the Jamestown native said. “We get to go on a zip line, a rope swing, see waterfalls, volcanos and go hiking. ... It’s not something you get to do very often.”
She did receive a $250 scholarship from the host of the event — Beyond Sports — but she’s responsible for the rest of the cost.
She’ll play in four games against Costa Rican teams during the trip. She’s also looking forward to interacting with the youth.
Hillesland, who earned all-conference honors for the Jimmies last season from her defensive position, is majoring in exercise science.
Her skill on the pitch is the primary reason she was invited, but not the only one, according to Beyond Sports director of soccer programs Silvia Betancourt.
“In addition to soccer talent, we seek recommendations for players with outstanding character and leadership who will represent their teams, NAIA and their country in competition. ... I want to congratulate you for being recognized as an outstanding athlete with these exemplary qualities,” Betancourt wrote.
The trip could serve as a good primer for Hillesland, who also hopes to coach and referee in the future. She’s well on her way to the latter, having recently completed her certification as a FIFA referee.
“I love the game, so any way to be involved, I’m happy and excited to do,” she said.
It’s not her first trip abroad, but this one is certainly unique.
“I’ve been to Jamaica and England, but those were more like vacations,” she said. “I’ve never done anything like this. I’m really excited about it.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com