Most student-athletes spend their summers in their hometowns with friends and family or back on campus working on their academics and preparing for the upcoming season.
But for rising senior Taylor Matkins of the UNCW softball team, this summer provided her with an opportunity to travel and prepare for the 2016 campaign at the same time.
“I had chosen not to study abroad this summer, so this was a great opportunity to see a new place, while getting ready for the season,” Matkins said.
Matkins was one of nine players to compete for USA Athletes International, an organization that provides recommended student-athletes a chance to participate in the sport they love on an international stage, while taking part in cultural opportunities.
The team competed in the Australia Friendship Series, an international softball tournament held every year in Sydney, Australia. In addition to promoting the game of softball, the tournament is designed to foster international goodwill and friendship.
During the trip, Matkins and her teammates won eight of nine contests during the five-day event. while claiming the tournament championship. Despite not knowing each other before the trip, Matkins didn’t think the unfamiliarity with her teammates was an issue.
“For most of us not knowing each other [prior to the trip] on the field, we were so fluent,” she said. “Everyone there would have thought we had played together for years and throughout our college careers.”
Following its stay in Sydney, the team headed to Brisbane Gold Coast for four days of sightseeing, which included a tour of the Blue Mountains, a visit to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a tour of the Sydney Opera House. The team also took part in surfing lessons, hiking and a dolphin kayak paddle.
“I enjoyed having the structure within the trip, but also the freedom within it as well,” Matkins said. “We had things planned for us to see and do but we also had large blocks of free time to explore the town on our own if we wanted to.”
Matkins is hoping to use this experience to help the Seahawks as they get ready for the 2016 campaign, which will begin in February.
“If I can be a part of an extraordinary team with unfamiliar teammates, it shows me the UNCW softball team is capable of so much more,” Matkins added. “We have the opportunity to be great this year in my last season.”