Midfielder Sara Whalen, a member of the 1999 Women's World Cup championship team and a native of Greenlawn, N.Y., and forward Christie Welsh, who hails from Massapequa, N.Y., will get the chance to play in front of a home crowd. Whalen was an All-State selection as a senior at Harborfields High School, captaining the team to the Long Island championship, and went onto star at the University of Connecticut, leading the team to the NCAA Championship Game her senior year. She has played 53 times for the USA, including the entire overtime period of the 1999 Women's World Cup Final.
The 5-foot-10 Welsh was the second leading scorer in the country last season as a freshman at Penn State University. She was the 1998 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year at Massapequa High School, leading the team to four consecutive Nassau County championships and the 1997 New York State championship. Welsh returns home as one of New York's most honored female soccer players ever as she was a two-time Parade All-American and a 1999 NSCAA All-American. Welsh has scored nine goals in her first 13 matches for the USA will likely be the quickest to double-figures in career goals of anyone in national team history. Both Welsh and Whalen have played for the Long Island Lady Rough Riders in the W-League.
Defender Christie Pearce from Point Pleasant, N.J. will also play in the match. The all-time leading scorer in Monmouth University history, Pearce switched to defender for the national team, helping win the 1999 Women's World Cup title. Pearce has played 66 times for the national team, including stellar efforts in her four starts at the Pacific Cup in Australia at the beginning of this month.
The remainder of the roster will be filled out with young stars, many of whom participated in the USA's Olympic Residency Camp in San Diego, Calif. The match vs. Italy, a participant in the 1999 Women's World Cup, presents the young players in the national team pool a valuable opportunity to show U.S. head coach April Heinrichs that they are worthy of one of the final spots on the U.S. Olympic Team. The 18-player Olympic Team roster will likely be finalized in late July or early August.
Fans in Islip can expect to see numerous future stars, including midfielder Aleisha Cramer, who will attend BYU this fall as well and defender Nandi Pryce, one of the USA's most impressive one-on-one defenders, who will attend UCLA. Also on the roster will be forward Alyssa Ramsey (headed to North Carolina), forward Susan Bush (MVP of the NCAA Final Four last season), Aly Wagner (one of the top freshman in nation last year for Santa Clara), and Sarah Randolph, the youngest player in the USA's Olympic Residency camp who turned 17 in February.
Italy crashed out of the Group of Death at the 1999 Women's World Cup, losing to Brazil and Germany, but has rebounded to find success in qualifying for the 2001 European Women's Championships and features one of the world's top strikers in Patrizia "The Scorpion" Panico.