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Remembering '99: Julianne Sitch

The 1999 Women’s World Cup practically transpired in my backyard. With the simple purchase of 6 tickets, my dad, Richard, inadvertently bought my best friend, Deb Benakis, her parents and myself not just access into a small athletic event, but rather an opportunity to bear witness to a sporting event that has since proven to be among the most pivotal in women’s soccer history. We watched the USA vs. Nigeria game at the Old Soldier Field in Chicago. If I might give a small memory-jog regarding that game: USA had its way with Nigeria in that 7-1 annihilation. That was the first women’s game I attended and I remember being so pumped from the moment we ordered our tickets. I was decked out in my Women’s World Cup hat (that I still have) and t-shirt and sat behind the goal where USA scored 6 of their 7 goals. Anyone who has been to a sporting event in Chicago knows the fans get rowdy and involved in the game from the get-go. I will never forget the atmosphere that was created for this particular soccer match. Solider Field was fully decorated with screaming fans, the famous wave that circled 3-4 times and, of course, thundersticks - all the bright yellow inflatable noise-makers that everyone smashed together for 90 minutes!

I thought it was pretty special in being able to go to the game in Chicago, but not special enough. My best friend, Deb - who attended the game with me in Chicago - trumped me tenfold. Her dad got her a last-minute flight to see the final game at Rose Bowl stadium in California, where she joined thousands of fans in cheering on the USA. I remember being so jealous as I sat at home with my dad watching the game on TV. I now get to live through Deb’s memories with the all the photos her dad took.

The 1999 World Cup was a crucial part in my soccer career. It was during the time I decided to focus on soccer and leave behind the other sports I played growing up. Kristine Lilly has always been an inspiration to me by her tremendous work-ethic and attitude. I also remember Cindy Parlow being one of my favorites because she is pigeon toed like myself. Everyone always used to tease me about that - even to this day! What’s more is that I found the entire national team to be an enormous motivation in allowing me to consistently set higher standards for myself and not allowing myself to settle for anything short of those goals. That team has been a walking depiction of success and has truly helped me live out the idea that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.

Julianne Sitch is a midfielder with Sky Blue FC.