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Young girls get a kick out of World Cup

July 12, 1999|By ERIN HEATH

If 15-year-old Lauren Church could meet one person of her choice, it would be U.S. women's soccer team goalkeeper Briana Scurry.

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Scurry and the rest of the U.S. women's soccer team defeated China's women, 5-4, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday to become the 1999 Women's World Cup champions.

Church, a Hagerstown resident, is a goalkeeper on three local girls teams, including one at Smithsburg High School. She and the rest of her high school team witnessed the U.S. soccer players' winning moment on television at player Laura Spessard's house.

"We were all jumping around and screaming," she said.

A penalty kick goal by U.S. midfielder Brandi Chastain in sudden-death overtime propelled the U.S. women's soccer players to victory and into the hearts of young female players and fans nationwide.

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"The (U.S.) players are definitely role models," Church said. "My whole wall is covered with every picture I see in the newspaper. Every time a game is on TV, I turn it on. It is just awesome."

Another Scurry fan, 13-year-old Alexa Suiter of Hagerstown, saw the women's team in person at the June 30 quarterfinal game against Germany at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium outside Washington, D.C.

"It was incredible," said Suiter, a goalkeeper for the Hagerstown Hotshots, a 13-and-under Hagerstown Soccer Club team. "I was surrounded by people cheering for the U.S."

Suiter said she looks up to the U.S. women's soccer players because "they are great friends, which is something that's really important, and they're not so concerned with winning as trying their best."

Hotshots coach Tim Foltz said he expects more young girls will want to play soccer as a result of the U.S. Women's World Cup victory.

Foltz's 13-year-old daughter, Emily, who is at at Mount St. Mary's soccer camp this week, was a ball girl at the quarterfinal game against Germany.

Foltz said his daughter got to meet some of the U.S. players, who showed her and other young female fans that "they can play just as hard as the boys."

In the 10 years that Rudy Krumpe has been president of the Hagerstown Soccer Club, he has seen a steady rise in the number of girls' soccer players.

When the club held its first Mason-Dixon Cup Soccer Tournament nine years ago, there were no girls' teams at all, Krumpe said. Now half of the teams that compete for the cup are female, he said.

Krumpe said the growing popularity of women's soccer was evident at the Women's World Cup final match, for which 90,185 fans - the most ever at a women's athletic event - showed up to cheer on the players.

For Suiter, the game was a victory not just for the U.S. soccer team, but for all female athletes.

"It's just such a feeling of gratitude to know that 90,000 people came out to watch women's sports," she said.

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