DESPITE A CHALLENGING ROOKIE SEASON
A shortened season will not discourage the CNMI’s Thaiphi Austria from working doubly hard in his rookie year in the collegiate ranks.
Austria is now in Angola, Indiana and has started attending classes at Trine University and has also been practicing with his team team—the Thunder.
“I left Saipan last July and last week classes had already started. My schedule is quite busy because I have six classes. I also have practice every day, but beginning tomorrow, we will take one day off every week, according to our coaches,” said Austria, who played for the Commonwealth both in the youth and men’s national-level teams, making him prime for the collegiate league.
“We will practice from Monday to Saturday and have our rest day on Sunday,” the 19-year-old athlete said.
His squad, the Trine Thunder, is an NCAA Division III school and plays in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Some schools in the MIAA have already withdrawn from the Fall season competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing organizers to shorten the tournament. Austria is relieved that his school decided to move ahead with the program and although there will be challenges as they cautiously proceed with the season, he is ready to face the upcoming hurdles.
“One of the major requirements is to do a COVID-19 testing 72 hours before the matches. And people who are positive will not participate in the match and will immediately be quarantined off campus,” said the former TanHoldings Football Club player.
Despite the limited games and restrictions in training sessions and travels due to safety protocols in place to combat the spread of the pandemic, Austria will capitalize on the opportunity to play this season to familiarize himself with the high-level competition in the collegiate ranks and get ready to represent the CNMI in future tournaments.
“Despite the season being shortened and changes are being made due to the pandemic, I’m going to make the most of the upcoming season. My biggest motivation would be my teammates back home. I see videos and pictures of them training and working hard for the upcoming EAFF tournament and it’s only fair that I do my share and work as hard as they do,” the CNMI player said.
Austria, who is majoring in civil engineering, is taking about the East Asian Football Federation E-1 Men’s Football Championship 2021 Preliminary Round 1. His teammates who remain on island are practicing five times a week at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville and are also observing safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, barring changes in the schedule, Austria and the Thunder will have their season debut on Sept. 12 when they take on Wheaton College in Illinois. They will then have their conference debut on Sept. 19 in Michigan, while the Thunder’s first home game will be on Sept. 23 against Adrian College.