January 6, 1999
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame senior women’s soccer player Monica Gerardo took off her Irish uniform for the last time on Nov. 28, and quickly donned the Mexican uniform she will wear next summer when the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held in the United States.
Just five days after Notre Dame’s run to the NCAA championship ended with a disappointing quarterfinal loss to Portland, Gerardo jetted to Mexico on Dec. 3, to continue her quest to help Mexico qualify for the Women’s World Cup and help ease the pain of the Irish loss to Portland.
“Playing for Mexico helped me deal with the loss because I was able to get away from Notre Dame,” said Gerardo. “I had something else to focus on. It made it easier because I didn’t have time to sit around campus and ponder the game.”
In her four years at Notre Dame, Gerardo scored more goals (73) and recorded more points (190) than any player in Notre Dame history. She came in as freshman and helped Notre Dame win the 1995 NCAA title with 20 goals in her freshman campaign. She scored a career-high 23 goals in 1996 and dipped to 10 goals in 1997 before recovering to score 20 goals in her senior year.
“Obviously, I didn’t want to end my career with a loss but it didn’t happen for us this year,” said Gerardo. “Although we didn’t win this year, I did win it once and that was a great experience. Notre Dame has been a great experience. I’ve met a lot of great people and have made friends and relationships that will last long into the future.”
Born in Minnesota, raised in California and eligible to play for Mexico since her father was born there, Gerardo is one of eight Mexican-Americans on the 18-player roster.
“I didn’t know any of the other players on the team,” said Gerardo. “It was hard at first. There was kind of some resentment because some of us weren’t born in Mexico. Now it is fine. I hang out with the Mexican players more than the American players.”
She had helped put Mexico in position to qualify for the Women’s World Cup automatically back in September before falling 1-0 to Canada in the final of the regional qualifying round. With the loss to Canada, Mexico was forced to play a two-game, home-and-home series with South American runner-up Argentina for the final spot in the 16-team Women’s World Cup.
Just as she had been a spark for the Irish in the 98 games over her four-year career, Gerardo led Mexico to a 3-1 win in the first game of the series on Fri., Dec. 11, in Toluca, Mexico.
Argentina opened the scoring with a goal in the first five minutes but Gerardo knotted the game with a goal just 15 minute later. Gerardo then assisted in the game-winning goal to give Mexico a 2-1 halftime lead on its way to a 3-1 win.
“We played really well,” said Gerardo after the first game. “It could have been five or six to one but we missed some chances. It will be a lot tougher when we have to play down in Argentina.”
Gerardo arrived back at Notre Dame late at night on Sat., Dec. 12 after the trip from Mexico City to South Bend. She used Sunday to finish her studying, took her final examinations on Monday and left that same afternoon for Mexico City.
The team made the trip to Argentina on Wed., Dec. 15 and became to the final team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup with a 3-2 win on Sat., Dec. 19, at Velez Sarsfield Stadium in Buenos Aires. Gerardo once again sparked Mexico with a goal in the 50th minute to tie the score at 2-2 before assisting on Evelyn Lopez’s game-winning goal in the 80th minute.
“Playing in the World Cup is what every soccer player dreams about,” said Gerardo. “Just to go will be an incredible experience. I don’t expect us to win the World Cup but I’m just happy to have the opportunity to be a part of it.”
The Women’s World Cup will be held June 19-July 10, 1999, at seven U.S. venues; Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., Soldier Field in Chicago, the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Civic Stadium in Portland, Ore., Spartan Stadium and Stanford Stadium in San Francisco Bay/San Jose and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Raljon, Md.
Gerardo expects to begin a full-time training camp with Mexico at the end of January until the event begins in June. Mexico also may play exhibition matches in Europe against the Scandinavian teams.
“Since we made the World Cup, I’ll have to take the spring semester off from school,” said the senior sociology major. “I don’t mind having to come back in the fall to finish my degree. I’m not in much of a hurry to finish school and my soccer career and get out in the real world.”
While Gerardo is excited about playing in the Women’s World Cup, playing against the U.S. national team in the Women’s World Cup would be difficult.
“It would be an awkward situation because when they’d play the national anthems, I’d be saluting the Mexican flag and trying to block out the American national anthem,” said Gerardo. “That would be something I’m certainly not accustomed to. I was given the opportunity to represent Mexico, and I am equally proud of both countries.”
Facing the Americans could pit Gerardo, playing forward, against former Notre Dame teammate and current U.S. national team defender Kate Sobrero.
“It would definitely be interesting to play against Kate. I wouldn’t be able to talk to her before and during the game. When you get on the field you have to cut everything off but after the game I’d give her a big hug.”