New Zealand athletes reconnect at Wheaton

By Cassidy Thornburg, Sports Editor

When Stafford Dowling and David Warbrick met at the 2015 Melbourne Friendship Cup in Australia, they never expected that four years later they would become roommates at Wheaton College. During the tournament, Dowling and Warbrick both played forward for the New Zealand Cross Whites. The Cross Whites fought hard to earn a spot in the championship game, but lost in the final round of the tournament.

After the tournament, Warbrick came to the United States to finish up his senior year of high school and to play soccer for Worcester Academy in Boston, the two lost touch. While playing in Boston, Warbrick caught the eye of Wheaton College Head Coach Jake DeClute and soon after made the decision to spend his four years in the Chicago Suburbs.

Warbrick returned home following his freshman season. While in New Zealand, he reconnected with Dowling and shared about his experience playing soccer at Wheaton. Warbrick describes the interaction as “rekindling their friendship.” It was a meeting that resulted in their playing on the same team once again when Dowling decided to join his friend in the States.

“It was a pretty quick decision,” Dowling said. “I made the decision to keep playing at Wheaton within three weeks.”

“He wants to chase soccer,” Warbrick added to emphasize the driving reason Dowling chose Wheaton.

During the Bob Baptista Invitational from Aug. 30- 31, Dowling scored two goals only two days after arriving for training camp Aug. 28.

66 minutes into the Thunder’s season opener against Wittenburg University, Dowling drove to goal and sliced the ball away from the keeper to score his first, helping the Thunder to a 5-0 victory.

Again late in the game, in the Thunder’s second match, the sophomore drew his first penalty kick and again found the back of the net with ease. This again contributed to the Thunder’s total offense which beat St. Norbert College 4-1 in their final game of the invitational.

With his first tournament in the books, Dowling commented on how playing soccer in the States differs from New Zealand. “Here, it is more about power and pace,” he said. “In New Zealand, it is not as focused on the power aspects. New Zealand is looking at a better brand of football, keeping the game position-based, but it also comes down to the collegiate system and those influences behind it as well.”

Warbrick also emphasized the difference playing at a Christian university has made to him. “The environment is different, it’s a more value-based group, especially academically, and playing soccer. You have that connection that you’re playing for God.”

Reconnecting four years after playing for the Cross Whites in Australia, Warbrick and Dowling, now roommates at Wheaton, are again on the same field, playing for a greater purpose than themselves.

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