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Queries and Anectodes with Christine Nairn

Despite being the youngest member of the USA’s 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup squad, Christine Nairn has made a major impact on the tournament so far. She has appeared in all four matches, three off the bench, and earned a start against China PR. She talked to Center Circle about her role on the team, her teammates on the U-20s and changing the course of the quarterfinal game on her fourth touch of the ball.

Center Circle: Tell us about your role on the team, because we know it’s changed over the course of the year.
Christine Nairn: “I came into this team fairly late because I was with the U-18s for the early part of the year. My first camp was in late spring, and I went in just happy to be there, trying to impress someone so I could come back. I started being involved with the team more and more and it was a relief to have found out I made the team to come here. Now that we’re here, I feel like my job is mostly to push the starters – and everyone - in practice and make them better every day.”

CC: What was it like to step on the field for the first time at a Women’s World Cup?
CN: “I’ll definitely remember it for a long time. When you’ve been working so hard for one thing, it’s awesome to just get on the field and get to play. The coaches just tell me to make an impact on the game and by playing to my strengths and I think I’ve tried to do that.”

CC: How great was it to step on in the quarterfinals and literally make an immediate impact?
CN: “It was cool. Of course it was a good feeling but really I just sent the ball in and Keelin (Winters) did all the hard work on the first one and Sydney (Lerous) did the work on the second. But it was definitely fun to be a part of those two goals.”

CC: What went into the decision to delay your enrollment at Penn State?
CN: “It was a really hard decision. It wasn’t easy to basically give up my freshman year, but now that we’re here it feels like it was worth it. Our goal is within our reach. Basically, I knew that in my first semester, I’d be missing something like six out of 12 weeks of the semester. I couldn’t really see it in the beginning, but now it feels like it was the best decision. And now that we’ve made the semifinals I feel like my decision was justified.”

CC: That said, how have you been training and preparing for Chile?
CN: “Well, my club coach was also the U-20 coach with the Washington Freedom, so he’s also involved with the senior team there. He said I could come and train whenever I wanted so I’ve been taking advantage of that. I’ve also been training with local boys teams, so that’s definitely kept me busy. I’ve also been working out at my high school. Every day I’ve just been able to focus on working out.”

CC: And what do you do when your teammates are all doing homework?
CN: “Well, I sleep a lot! We’ve also been watching season three of Grey’s Anatomy (editor’s note: these players watch a LOT of Grey’s). A lot of times it feels like all we do is eat, sleep and train anyway, so other than that I just relax.”

CC: Do you catch any flack for being the youngest player on the team?
CN: “A little! It’s just joking. They don’t make me carry the balls or anything! And there are a few other players who get those jokes, too. It’s all in fun.”

CC: You’ve really come out of your shell with this team…
CN: “(Laughing) Well, when I first started with this team I didn’t really talk much because I really didn’t know anybody. They were all older and everything, but now I’m going to be going to school with Alyssa (Naeher) and I’ve been up there a couple times. That’s really helped. Just being here and being together for so long it’s like you have to be yourself. No one really cares if you’re silly or anything at this point. We just want to enjoy each other as much as we can. There isn’t much we don’t know about each other after all this time!”

CC: What is the mindset of the team heading into the semifinals against Germany?
CN: “Well I think when it comes down to it, we’re all a little nervous, but it’s a good nervous. We’re excited and we really think we’re ready. We know we have to play our best against what is one of the top teams in the world.”