Eleni Benson ’05 is currently taking “Modern Greek 115,” and it’s not because she has to fulfill her distributional requirement.
Benson and Ali Cobbett ’03, both members of the Yale women’s soccer team, were selected to the Greek women’s soccer national team that is training for 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The team that will represent Greece in the Games will be announced in June, 2004. As the host nation, Greece is awarded an automatic bid.
“Greek will definitely come in handy,” said Benson of her imminent trip to Athens.
Both Benson and Cobbett are American-born, but they are not anomalies on the team.
“Half the team is American,” Benson said. “Women’s soccer is not as developed in Greece. Women there don’t have very many opportunities to play organized soccer as young girls, as we do here in the States, where many players are on a team by age five or so.”
For Benson and Cobbett, the positives of playing abroad are more than athletic.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Benson said. “I’ve been able to explore my culture, and see relatives in Athens that I didn’t have the chance to see when I was growing up.”
But their first priority is soccer. Benson and Cobbett spent winter recess training with the Greek team in Europe, where they tested out the international field.
“It’s definitely a higher level of competition,” said Benson. “But we haven’t played the U.S., China, or any of the international powerhouses yet.”
Benson plans to return to Greece over spring break to continue training and compete in the All Girls Cup, a worldwide women’s soccer tournament in Portugal.
In just a six-month span, Benson and Cobbett have had to transition from local to national to international play. The Bulldogs, led by Cobbett and Benson, made their first appearance in the NCAA tournament in the program’s 25-year history. They lost to No. 19 Nebraska after upsetting Villanova in the first round.
Cobbett, the captain of the 2002 women’s soccer team and two-time first-team all-Ivy selection, led the Bulldogs to a 12-5-2 record. She also recently received Academic All-District honors.
Benson, who earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention honors this season, had a breakout fall performance, finishing third on the team with 14 points.