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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Townsend rejoins soccer team after three-game absence

While members of the UF soccer team traveled to familiar Southeastern Conference destinations like Athens, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn., Tricia Townsend was exploring Budapest.

Townsend, a graduate student in the International Business program, was required to travel with about 100 other students to Budapest, Hungary from Oct. 15-23 as part of a course this semester.

Townsend, a senior and three-time member of the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll, only needed three years to earn a degree in marketing.

"I had a lot of credits coming into school," Townsend said. "They just piled-up and it just ended up that I was graduating in three years. It came kind of unexpected."

Townsend realized she would have to miss three games this season when she was accepted into the graduate student program last spring. Townsend and the UF coaches tried to find a way for her to stay in the program without making the trip.

There was no alternative.

"If she didn't go, she would have failed," coach Becky Burleigh said.

Mindy Kraft, UF director of the Master of Arts in International Business program, said athletes are discouraged from taking a full graduate student course load, as sports and advanced studies can make for a difficult balancing act.

On Oct. 15, while her teammates traveled to Tennessee, Townsend was on an 11-hour flight from Atlanta to Paris, where she landed before being driven to Budapest.

The goal of the trip was to give students experience in another country with a controlled environment, Kraft said.

During the day, Townsend attended lectures about Hungarian history and the country's economy. Students also visited different companies in Budapest to see how they operated.

At night, Townsend was able to explore Budapest, notably the many Turkish baths and the castle district.

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"The architecture is amazing," Townsend said.

But even with a new city to explore, Townsend said she couldn't stop thinking about soccer and was upset to leave the team in the middle of its conference season.

"It really helped me refocus on the season and know that I want to win really bad," Townsend said.

Townsend arrived back in Gainesville Oct. 24 at 2 a.m. She slept for six hours, then did laundry and packed again.

At noon, the Gators flew to Fayetteville, Ark., for a game against the Razorbacks. Townsend played 34 minutes in her return to the field.

Going on little sleep and adjusting to a six-hour time difference, Townsend was rusty, but Burliegh suggested that Townsend's travels might help her.

"It's kind of good because it gave her a built-in break," Burleigh said. "We wish all our team could take a week off and come back and play."

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