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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Bugay uses international experience to mentor inexperienced midfield, younger sister

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg
Ryley Bugay anticipates a pass in Marquette’s loss to Wisconsin Aug. 20.

As Marquette women’s soccer scrimmaged Northwestern and Wisconsin last spring, one of the team’s most essential pieces was halfway across the globe, representing a country she had never visited.

Then-redshirt junior Ryley Bugay went from walking down Wisconsin Avenue to walking down streets in the Philippines.

“It’s a different lifestyle,” Bugay said. “It’s a developing country.”

Bugay, whose mother’s ancestry is Filipino, was there to compete with the Philippines’ national team in the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup.

“They were really on the lookout for American Filipinos,” Bugay said. “They wanted to bring in a wider range of players with different diversity and college experience.”

The first step was a tryout in November outside of Los Angeles. Bugay had a chance to try out the previous year, but would have had to pay her own way to get there. This time, an assistant coach on the Philippines national team reached out and invited her free of cost.

She then trained with the team in California through February before spending March training in the Philippines and April in Jordan for the games.

Bugay had the opportunity of a lifetime, but she still needed to comply with the NCAA’s academic legislation as a student-athlete.

“It was a little difficult,” Bugay said. “There are obviously some NCAA rules with regulations in terms of keeping up with school.”

Marquette was not going to let that stop Bugay from playing internationally. She took two online classes and then took incompletions in classes, allowing her to finish the classes later and maintain eligibility for the 2018 season.

“Faculty, academic advisers — everybody that was involved was tremendously helpful,” Marquette head coach Markus Roeders said. “That really played a huge role.”

“Everyone was super supportive in terms of what I was trying to achieve,” Bugay said.

Bugay, who will graduate in December, said she missed the social aspect of her final spring at Marquette. Outside the country for much of the spring, she had limited communication with her friends and teammates.

“It was hard for me to leave,” Bugay said. “I was so used to being here and wanted to be here, obviously, for my last spring. That was a big, big challenge.”

Unable to text people, she said she relied on “lots of FaceTime calls.”

The opportunity to compete at the highest level didn’t truly set in for Bugay until her first game against Jordan, the host of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. She’s used to having about 1,000 fans at a match at Valley Fields.

There were about 10,000 fans at the first game.

“It didn’t really hit me what I was playing for until our very first game,” Bugay said. “Seeing that many people come to see that game, it really hit me … and what a win and possibly multiple wins could do.”

“It was very, very loud,” Bugay said. “It was hard to hear people, but you adjust to it and learn to tune everything else out.”

As she gave up Schroeder Hall’s chicken parmesan for chicken adobo, a chicken and rice stir fry native to the Philippines, she also met several of her own family members for the first time.

“(Family) meeting me for the first time and then showing me where they live and kind of a tour of the Philippines is really humbling,” Bugay said. “It was great to see my background and see where I’m from.”

The transition to international play also involved a position change. After spending the last three seasons at Marquette playing the defending center midfield position, the Philippines team moved her to the back line, playing center back to better fit the team’s needs.

“Everything is more in front of you rather than all around you,” Bugay said. “It’s also a position where you have to be a little more demanding and vocal. You’re controlling everything in front of you.”

Bugay talked with then-senior defender Madison Dunker throughout the process, but didn’t need many pointers on the position.

“Ryley has a really good soccer IQ and reads the game well. She breaks it down really well,” Dunker said. “I wasn’t really worried, and she wasn’t worried about her transition because she naturally likes to stick in that six spot.”

Bugay said she now hopes to bring her international experience back to a midfield still establishing chemistry at Valley Fields. The graduation of Caroline Fink and Eli Beard left Bugay as the only returning starter.

“The biggest jump from the college level to the international level is speed of play and organization,” Bugay said. “I’m trying to bring that type of organization back here.”

Senior Leah Celarek joins Bugay in the midfield, but this is the first year Celarek primarily played midfield since high school. No other upperclassman played significant minutes in the midfield.

“We have a lot of talent, and I think we have the potential to be very, very good,” Bugay said. “We need to be a little more disciplined and a little more organized.”

Freshmen Katrina Wetherell and Katie Koker took prominent roles in the midfield in the first two weeks of the season.

“We’ve only played together since the beginning of August,” Bugay said. “We’re still finding that chemistry, but once we figure that out, we’ll be solid.”

Roeders said he already noticed the impact.

“She’s grown. She’s matured,” Roeders said. “She’s seen more of the world and a different environment of soccer.”

An inexperienced midfield is not the only group Ryley Bugay is mentoring. Her sister Sammi Bugay is a freshman on the team. Separated by five years, the sisters never thought they’d be on the same team.

“Having her here is something I can always rely on,” Sammi said. “I can go to her, and she understands more than maybe somebody else would.”

When Sammi tore her ACL in March less than two weeks before she would have left for the AFC qualifiers, Ryley knew exactly what she was going through. The defending midfielder had the exact same injury her junior year of high school. Even the same scar, the sisters joke.

“I can kind of understand what she’s going through,” Ryley said. “She’ll come back stronger and be able to make an impact.”

Other similarities are still up for debate.

“We’re kind of goofy together,” Ryley said.

“She’s goofy,” Sammi quickly retorted.

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