For the week of July 14, 1999  thru July 20, 1999  

Women’s World Cup spurs soccer fever

Locals flip for Team USA


By JODY ZARKOS
Express Staff Writer

"Lightning in a bottle."

That’s how Hank Steinbrecher of the U.S. Soccer Federation described the unprecedented success of the women’s World Cup soccer tournament.

What kind of sparks has Saturday’s penalty-shot triumph of the American women touched off locally?

"I thought it was so cool," said 20-year-old Casey Mills of Elkhorn, who plays soccer at the University of Idaho and was a member of Wood River High School’s unbeaten 1995 state championship team.

Mills said, "You talk to anyone, people of all ages and backgrounds, and they were watching it. My mother, who doesn’t even follow soccer was caught up in it."

After a scoreless championship game and overtime, the USA women’s team outlasted China 5-4 on penalty kicks Saturday in front of a capacity crowd of 90,185 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Ca. ABC Network estimates 40 million people watched on television for a 13.3 overnight rating.

More telling than Nielsen numbers, however, are the imaginations and hearts that the women’s team captured on their march through the World Cup—a march featuring victories over Denmark, Nigeria, Korea, Germany and Brazil.

"I think it opens the door for women in general," Mills said. "On and off the soccer field. Just like President Clinton said it was one of the biggest sporting events this decade."

Joey Stevenson, 11, said he and his family followed the USA’s progress throughout the tournament. The Stevensons were camping at Redfish Lake Saturday and drove to Stanley to watch the final game.

"It showed me women can do it," Stevenson summed up.

What kind of boon it will have on women’s soccer in the United States is yet to be determined. It has already made an impact on the leather ball set in the Wood River Valley.

Larsen Peterson of Ketchum, a mother of three school-aged players, McKenna, 11, Axel, 9, and Dylan, 6, said her family followed the tournament incessantly.

"I think it really boosted my kids’ interest in soccer," Peterson said. "They would spend hours playing soccer after watching the games. And they watched each game from beginning to end."

Sarah Cortese, 13, of Ketchum logged hundreds of miles traveling to California with her father Mike to take in three World Cup matches in person, including the U.S.A.’s semifinal victory over Brazil.

"People were really into it. They were standing up and cheering the whole match," said Cortese, who plays soccer for Sawtooth United F.C.

She said, "It made me feel like women are going to be more respected now because they showed they can do the same things as the guys. I think women are going to be treated a lot better in the future and be considered equal when it comes to sports."

Edward Sawicz, 13, a player for Sawtooth United and Wood River Middle School concurred.

He said, "Some people have a thing against women and don’t think they are as good as men. But after watching them you can see they take the game seriously and are probably as good as the guys."

Sawtooth United director and coach Richard Whitelaw said he was moved by the women’s performance.
"It shows you that girls can compete on the same stage as guys. The nation can be pretty proud of them. Hopefully, all the girls and guys watched the final. It was exciting," he said. "The women just play."

The Sun Valley women’s soccer team has experienced a resurgence in numbers recently with as many as 35 women showing up for practice Monday nights at Atkinson Park in Ketchum.

One longtime Sun Valley player is Tizz Miller, who is entering her seventh year as head girls’ soccer coach at Wood River High School.

Alluding to the success of the USA women’s hockey team as well as the World Cup women, Miller said, "I think anytime a women’s team is successful it carries over to our local sports."

Fortunately, the sport of soccer is well established and supported enthusiastically in the Wood River Valley.

Miller said, "We saw an increase in our high school numbers about two years ago and I think that’s due to the Sawtooth U12 and U14 teams. We’re seeing girls who want to play soccer year round. They’ll play for me and then they will go to soccer camp, instead of doing something else.

"Personally, the World Cup is the first thing my husband has ever watched with me. He watches hunting and the Tour de France, but he would come in and watch the whole game with me. I think the games meant something."

For 11-year-old McKenna Peterson, the women’s World Cup was revolutionary. "I was proud," she stated.

"I was proud that a whole bunch of people liked watching the women play and it made me proud to be a girl."

 

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