US SoccerUS Soccer

New Name, New Life, Same Game (or maybe not?)


CHICAGO (January 7, 2008) - It’s a guarantee that fans wondered this while scrolling through the roster on ussoccer.com for the first U.S. Women’s National Team training camp of the year:

“Who the heck is this Cox kid? Stephanie Cox from Portland? I’ve never heard of her.”

Well, Stephanie Cox is actually Stephanie Lopez, just the married 2.0 version. She’s the same Stephanie Lopez who was the youngest player and starter on the USA’s 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup Team. The same Stephanie Lopez who exudes a wonderfully aesthetic style of play, calmness on the ball, underrated toughness and ability to add to the U.S. attack with runs out of the back and service from the flanks.

But she does have a new name, a new married life, and perhaps a bit different perspective on the game of soccer as well.

Cox was married on Dec. 16 in Hood River, Oregon, a small, picturesque northwest town at the base of Mt. Hood located on the Columbia River. The outdoor wedding to her college sweetheart, former University of Portland baseball player Brian Cox, took place on a crisp afternoon, outdoors on a cliff overlooking the river and lush, rolling tree-lined hills. It was a day that crystallized just as she imagined it would when Cox popped THE question last July.

Still, you would be hard pressed to find a bride who had more going on during the time between engagement and wedding – just six months – as young Stephanie Lopez. Was she just a bit ambitious to set a date so soon? Especially considering what she had on the horizon? You be the judge.

LOPEZ TO COX: A TIMELINE
Named to Women’s World Cup Team:

July 11

Engaged:

July 31

Women’s World Cup starts:

Sept. 11

Women’s World Cup ends:

Sept. 30

College season debut:

Oct. 5

College season ends:

Nov. 30

Fly to Texas to receive award at NCAA College Cup:

Dec. 6

Turned in final college thesis:

Dec. 12

Moved out of dorm room:

Dec. 13

Married:

Dec. 16

Picked up college diploma:

Dec. 17

Left for honeymoon:

Dec. 17

Honeymoon ends:

Dec. 22

Husband’s birthday:

Jan. 2

National Team camp begins:

Jan. 3


Phew.

“People may look at the timeline and think I was crazy and a tad bit irresponsible to set the date so close to the engagement while being so young and with so many things happening this fall,” said Cox with a chuckle. “But I knew I had the people that would support me in all of the things I had on my plate, so I went for it. The way I see it, it’s not so much how old people are, but where the two people are in life.”

It’s that mature attitude, grounded in a solid family foundation that has helped the cerebral Cox gain so much soccer success so early in her career. She’s still just 21 years old, but that’s much older than her parents were when they got married.

“I have an optimistic and innocent perspective about marriage,” said Cox. “Growing up, I heard the stories about how my parents met when my mom was a freshman in high school and my dad was junior and they got married right out of high school. Throughout my high school and college years, I saw their sacrifice and love for each other so the age that they got married didn’t seem a cause for concern in my eyes. Growing up, I had the experience of having a foster family (she has several adopted brothers and a sister) that caused me to grow up a little faster, mature faster than normal. I kind of wished I could have been younger and carefree, but that maturity made me confident and capable of taking this step to be married. I also know that Brian is right there with me and completely confident in our relationship.”

It certainly helped that Brian did a lot of the wedding planning, including picking the venue, arranging the whole honeymoon and deciding on the seating arrangements at the reception. How could you not love a guy who does seating arrangements?

“I am so happy to be married,” said Cox, whose nuptials seven months after she came of age to drink champagne at her own wedding surprised some of her older (and unmarried) teammates. “When I think about it, the engagement, the planning for the wedding, the wedding, my college season, the World Cup, moving into a townhouse, the honeymoon and the holidays, it all went by so fast. Everything pre-wedding and post-wedding was a bit of a blur, but at the same time I still have some very distinct memories and images in my mind. Even though it flew by, it was perfect.”

After a third-place finish at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a tournament in which she played all but 45 minutes, Cox now sets her sights on moving up two spots on the medal stand. While she has started for the USA in two FIFA youth world championships and a Women’s World Cup, this would be her first Olympics, provided the USA qualifies in April and she makes the 18-player squad.

The competition to be an U.S. Olympian will be fierce, but Cox feels like she’s even more prepared for the challenge with her new post-collegiate, just-married life. An amateur as a college player since she debuted for the full National Team in 2005, she is now a full-time professional. Soccer is her job.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Cox. “I’m honored to be one of the few full-time female professional players in this country. When I’ve been at the gym the past couple of weeks, I see all the people there working hard and trying to stay fit and I think that this is my job, which is pretty special.”

What is also special is that she no longer has to worry about finishing her senior thesis (it was titled Female Athletes as Role Models: Perceptions and Personalities), studying for multiple tests, reading textbooks, writing papers and catching up on all the missed class due to her time on the road with various national teams.

“I’m looking forward to the transition because now I have the time and energy to focus on the small things that I let slip by when I was a full-time student,” said Cox, who graduated with a degree in psychology and a Spanish minor. “I can be more consistent with weightlifting and diet, and have more time to watch video or practice on my own.”

While the U.S. team has an extensive schedule of training and matches leading into Olympic qualifying in April, which will lead into numerous domestic games should the USA book tickets to Beijing, for Cox life is actually going to calm down a bit. She has a husband, a home, a job and a focus. No dog yet, though.

“Being with the National Team, you have to be able to adapt and change quickly because nothing is ever really for certain,” said Cox, who has played 30 times for the USA. “So that kind of prepared me for the craziness of the past year. I don’t feel like I’ve really had a lot of time to absorb what has happened, but I do know I love being married and being able to be with my best friend all the time.”

Best friends and husband and wife Brian and Stephanie went to Whistler, B.C., for their honeymoon. When crossing back into the USA on Dec. 22 (see above chart!), they told the official at the border crossing that it was the end of their honeymoon.

Said the wise man in the booth: “The honeymoon doesn’t end until you want it to end.”

For Cox, the journey is just beginning.


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