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The Soap Boxx - Second Entry


"THE SOAP BOXX"

Midfielder Shannon Boxx became the first uncapped player in the history of the U.S. Women’s National Team to make a Women’s World Cup Team, then scored in her first two international games, only the third U.S. female player ever to achieve that feat. Against Sweden on Sept. 21, she made history, scoring the clinching third U.S. goal in the 3-1 victory over Sweden in the opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2003, making her the first-ever female player to score in her first three international matches.During the Women’s World Cup, she will share her unique perspective and experiences in a special diary feature for www.ussoccer.com’s U.S. Women’s National Team Plus!, titled, "The Soap Boxx." 

It's game day, Sunday, Sept. 21, 12:30 p.m., and the weather is perfect for soccer – not too hot, not too cold. The starting 11 for the United States Women's World Cup Team is lined up listening to our national anthem in front of 35,000 people at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., and I find myself right in the middle of it. I am standing between two superstars, Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm, who are now my teammates. The reason I’m between perhaps the two most-recognizable female soccer players in the world is that we are lined up by number, and I am 7.  Brandi is 6 and Mia is 9.  I have somehow made it onto this World Cup team at the last possible moment and now I find myself in the starting line up next to Mia and Brandi.  Could this dream, which is now a reality, get any better?  (Believe it or not, it did!).  I am definitely nervous at this point, but I have a smile on my face because I know I have been waiting for this a moment all my life. 

I found out the day before the game in my individual meeting with U.S. head coach April Heinrichs that I was going to be starting against Sweden.  At that point, nervousness started to set in.  April, though, was very confident in me and she shared the things she wanted to see from me in the game.  One:  Win every air ball and every fifty-fifty ball. Two:  Battle on defense and win tackles. And three: look to play dynamic long balls to my front-runners. 

The attitude amongst the players the day before the game was pure excitement.  We were ready and couldn't wait for the Women’s World Cup to begin.  Our feeling was that Sweden was in for a very tough game because we were going to come out fast and hard.  There was no way we were going to be able to contain the adrenaline that was waiting to come out. 

That night before the game we had a team meeting to scout the opposing team.  But before the meeting officially began, Kylie Bivens and Aly Wagner, two of the younger players, stood up in front of the group and did a cheer from the movie "Bring it On!"  It was hilarious, and of course, it has now started a tradition among us young players that we have to do skits before meetings.  I think I am going to be more nervous about doing a skit in front of the team than playing in front of thousands of people.

But, back to game day. Two police cars with flashing lights and sirens escorted us all the way to RFK stadium.  I felt like a little kid again because I thought it was the coolest thing.  It made me feel so important!  When we got to the stadium we made our way into our locker room and there hanging in our lockers was our game jersey, with a big BOXX in block letters on the back of the shirt.  I don't know if I could ever put into words the feelings I was experiencing that day with all the amazing and new things that were happening.  I was just proud, excited, relieved, nervous, and more than anything…completely happy.  Of course we all grabbed our cameras and started taking pictures.  Pictures are my only way of proving I was actually there, that, and I guess the fact that the game was on ABC. Vice-President Dick Cheney (and a whole bunch of secret service agents who looked like guys you wouldn't want to mess with) came into our locker room before the game to wish us luck.

It's now game time, the whistle blows, and the ball is passed to me first.  I was off like a cannon.  My sister was in the stands watching and she told me later how fast and hard I came out.  All my excitement and emotion just began to pour out onto that soccer field.  At about the 20th minute, I hit a wall. I found out at half time that was the case for a couple of us, but we were able to channel the emotion, calm down and settle into the game. By half time we were up 2-0, but not once did we ever feel like the game was ours.  At this level, the only time you know you have the game won is after that final whistle is blown.  At halftime, I didn't know if I was going to play the second half, but I was excited when I found out I was still in.  It was time to pick up my game even more.  

In the 78th minute Kristine Lilly won us a corner kick from the left side.  Mia ran over to take it while the rest of us got into position.  I was lined up on the back post ready to spin out to the back door when Mia kicked a perfect ball heading right for me.  All I saw was the ball and I jumped over my defender to get to it, not knowing at the same time I was pushing Julie Foudy out of my way as well.  I didn't even see the ball go in, but I saw it sitting in the back of the net and I knew I had scored.  I ran to the middle of the field and jumped in the air with my fists in the air and Tiffeny Milbrett, my teammate on the New York Power, caught me. Luckily, she braced herself as I am six inches taller than her and I didn’t knock her over. I couldn't believe I had just scored in my first World Cup game.  One of my friends told me the look on my face was pure astonishment.

My first World Cup game, my first World Cup goal!  Wow.  It's like a fairytale.  I guess I've set a pretty high standard for myself!  But I know that the Sweden game is done and we have Nigeria on Thursday, and all focus is on the African champions.  They have some very dangerous players and we know we are in for a physical battle.  Luckily, I like physical battles!  It plays to my strengths and we can't wait to go out and perform for the fans here in Philly.

Thanks for sharing my first Women’s World Cup game with me and I’ll talk to you soon.

Boxxy

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