Sept. 21, 2003
Two former Notre Dame women’s soccer greats and members of the 1995 national-title team – defender Kate Sobrero and defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx – are about to begin play with the U.S. Women’s National Team in the World Cup. Sobrero is a five-year member of the National Team and will be appearing in her second World Cup while Boxx was a surprise addition to the 18-player squad, with no previous National Team experience. Notre Dame joined UNC, Santa Clara and Portland as the only schools with multiple players on the U.S. squad.
The U.S. opens pool play on Sunday, Sept. 21, versus Sweden (12:30 EDT, live on ABC and TeleFutura), followed by games on Sept. 25 vs. Nigeria (7:30 EDT, ESPN2/Galavision) and Sept. 28 vs. North Korea (3:45 EDT, ABC/TeleFutura). The top two teams from each of the groups (A-D) then will advance to the quarterfinals.
Current Notre Dame junior defender Candace Chapman was slated to be a starter with Canada in the World Cup before suffering an ACL knee injury in late August that will sideline her for the remainder of the 2003 season.
Sobrero and Boxx are two of several former Irish players who have been in the national and international soccer news during recent months. They were among nine ND alums who played in the Women’s United Soccer Association during the 2003 season, with Boxx earning New York Power MVP honors while playing in the WUSA All-Star Game. Washington Freedom defender Jen Grubb – who played every minute of the 2001-03 WUSA seasons – was a starter in the All-Star Game while three other ND alums, San Jose CyberRays goaltender LaKeysia Beene and Sobrero and fellow Boston Breakers defender Monica Gonzalez, also played in the All-Star Game.
Boxx impressed the U.S. coaches with her play in the WUSA and was called into a final four-day tryout camp before earning the surprise nod for the 18-player squad (despite never playing a game for the National side). She then scored in her first two games with the National Team, tuneup wins over Costa Rica and Mexico (5-0) – joining Michelle Akers and Natalie Neaton as the only players ever to score in each of her first two games with the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“I came into that last camp not knowing if they were going to make the World Cup team after that or wait a little longer,” Boxx said. “Being called in so late, I just was thinking ‘Let’s just play well so I can get invited into the next camp or after the World Cup.
“I didn’t think I would be scoring goals,” added Boxx, whose eight assists in 2003 shared the WUSA lead. “I thought I’d be playing defense. I’m still playing defense, but if I can get one in there sometimes, that’s great.”
U.S. National Team head coach April Heinrichs made the call to add Boxx to the squad, making her the first player in Women’s World Cup history ever named to a team without previously having played for the National Team.
“What was compelling about it was [Boxx] was dominating the midfield, regardless of who the opponent was,” Heinrichs said. “I watched all of her games and what became apparent was she has qualities that allow her to dominate in a way that I think we can use.”
Boxx already had a busy schedule on tap for the remainder of 2003, as she is one of several former Irish players who are engaged to be married in coming months while joining many of her fellow ND alums in graduate school (at Pepperdine). She also is one of three former Irish players who recently started their coaching careers as college assistants, at Cal State Dominguez Hills, with Kelly Lindsey now on the staff at the University of Colorado and Monica Gerardo at the University of Pittsburgh.
Sobrero – who has played centrally and outside with the U.S. defense – also played with the 1999 World Cup champions and in the 2000 Olympics. She currently leads the U.S. in minutes played during 2003 games.
In addition to the above players, other ND alums who played in the 2003 WUSA included: Gerardo (Washington) and Lindsey (San Jose), defender/forward Lindsey Jones (New York) and midfielder Anne Makinen (Philadelphia Charge). Sobrero and Gonzalez led Boston to the 2003 WUSA regular-season title while Grubb captained Washington to the Founders Cup postseason championship, in a 2-1 overtime win over the Atlanta Beat.
For more information on the World Cup, log onto www.ussoccer.com and launch U.S. Women’s National Team Plus. Below is a diary entry from Boxx provided by U.S. Soccer:
The Soap Boxx – First Entry (9/19/03)
Midfielder Shannon Boxx became the first uncapped player in the history of the U.S. Women’s National Team to make a Women’s World Cup Team, then scored in her first two international games, only the third U.S. female player ever to achieve that feat. During the Women’s World Cup, she will share her unique perspective and experiences in a special diary feature for www.ussoccer.com’s U.S. Women’s National Team Plus!, titled, “The Soap Boxx.”.
Three years ago I would never, ever have imagined myself in the situation I’m in now – as a member of the 2003 U.S. Women’s World Cup Team. Three years ago, I almost gave up soccer altogether. I had just gotten back from playing “professionally” in Germany, which was really semi-pro at best, and I had settled into the fact that soccer wasn’t going to be a part of my life anymore. I had told myself that the day it wasn’t fun anymore to strap on the boots was the day it was time to give it up. What was I thinking?! Luckily, that day never came, and right now, I sit 48 hours from walking into a huge stadium for a Women’s World Cup game.
Even after the WUSA season, I really didn’t think I had a chance at the World Cup Team even though it was my best pro season by far. The fact that I was called into the national team training camp at the end of August came as a surprise. I wasn’t even the first to know. I found out at a team meal for the New York Power when we were in Atlanta for our last regular season game. My Power and national team teammate Christie Pearce walked into the room and said, “Congratulations!!” I said, “for what?” Apparently, my name was on a email to all the players getting called into that camp, so I rushed upstairs to check and sure enough, I was going to San Diego for the final pre-Women’s World Cup camp. Even after that, I thought my chances were at the Women’s World Cup Team were slim at best.
But whether or not I had the chance to make the team, I still wanted to prove myself to April Heinrichs so maybe I would have a chance to keep in the running for the 2004 Olympic Team.
Honestly, I didn’t think I would make it, but my teammates were so positive, coming up to me and saying things like, “Boxxy, you’re doing great. Keep it up. You never know?”
I thought I had a good week of camp, but it was hard to gauge my performance because we really only had two hard days of training during that time. Ironically, I think the fact that I thought I didn’t have a shot helped me make the team, because I was as calm and composed as I’ve ever been with the national team. I had nothing to lose. It really helped me settle down and play well enough in the end to be among the 20 players chosen.
The day she chose the team I went into the meeting not knowing if she would even choose the team that day. In fact, I didn’t even know if April wanted to meet with me because I figured she had to meet with all the veterans. After she told me I made the team, April said that no one knew who was on the team yet and that I should keep it under wraps until she told everyone in camp whether they made it or not. When I walked out of the meeting, there were a bunch of players waiting in the hallway of the hotel and I swear I had to do the best acting job of my life not to give it away! Then I went to my room and pretty much scream-whispered to my mom on my cell phone, “Mom, I made the team!”
From there, it has been a whirlwind. Life on this team, especially the Women’s World Cup Team, is pretty crazy. So much has happened in the last four weeks that it’s hard to believe we are so close to the opening game against Sweden this Sunday. I must say I am pretty calm, but pretty excited. Our trip from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C. was very focusing. It was like, “we’re here and it’s time to play.” I really don’t think I’ll be nervous until we step on the field on Sunday, but a little bit of nervousness is always a good thing. My mom, my sister and my fianc? are going to be there, so that will be special to me. I have no idea if I’m going to play or not, but if I get to step on that field, I promise I will do anything and everything and use every ounce of my energy to help this team win.
I tell myself that I must also remember to take a step back and take it all in. I want to enjoy the moment and never take anything for granted. The funny thing is that I still see myself as just the “kid next door” who is getting to play with superstars. It’s something I wish all players out there like me could experience. We never got the headlines. We were always looked at as the “hard workers” and the “role players.” We had big dreams, but needed the opportunity and the right situation to achieve our goals. It just goes to show that you should never give up on your dreams. They really do come true.