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w/ WNT defender Cat Reddick

A monthly feature about a U.S. Men’s, Women’s or Youth National Team player whose performance demands that bright, shining spotlight. This month, it falls to Southern Belle and recent U.S. Women’s World Cup standout defender Catherine Reddick. You can call her Cat, but only if you buy her some barbecue and a tall glass of sweet tea at Dreamland next time you’re in her neck o’ the woods in Birmingham.

…Got That Right!

Cat Reddick had the 2003 Women’s World Cup all figured out. She would sit on the bench as a key reserve and hopefully get some quality minutes in a few games. She would run on the field at the end of the championship game to celebrate the USA’s Women’s World Cup title (maybe even be on the field as a late-game defensive sub) and enjoy every minute of the journey. It was going to be fun.

Well, she got the last part right. Reddick did enjoy every minute of her first Women’s World Cup, but due to the broken right foot suffered by starting central defender Brandi Chastain in the first half of the USA’s opening match against Sweden in Washington, D.C., Reddick’s tournament changed dramatically at halftime in the locker room at RFK Stadium. She went on for Chastain at the start of the second half and immediately made an impact, stuffing several Swedish attacking forays during the 45 minutes in which the Swedes had the USA on its heels, helping the Americans secure an historic 3-1 victory. She never left the field from that point, starting and playing all 90 minutes in the USA’s next five matches.

“I was the most nervous I’ve ever been in a game before,” said Reddick of her quick call to duty. “I was scared, but I knew that it was my chance to step up for the United States. I knew if I was too scared, I wouldn’t play well, so once I got a few touches and got rid of the nerves, I was okay.”

The Women’s World Cup always provides a grand stage for new stars to emerge, and Reddick, along with Abby Wambach and Shannon Boxx, made the biggest impacts for the United States.

“It was better than I expected it be,” said Reddick, who partnered with veteran Joy Fawcett, 15 years her senior, in the center of the U.S. defense over the final 495 minutes of the tournament. “I always dreamed of the on-field aspect, but I never imagined what it would be like off the field. It was the relationships that you make with the team that are so special. Just being together in such a big competition, one that you will remember for the rest of your life, creates some unique bonds. You get to know the players better because we were together for five weeks. It was just a lot of fun.”

While Reddick made sure to savor all that is a World Cup tournament, she admits that the loss to Germany was decidedly sour.

“That was the biggest disappointment, obviously,” said Reddick of the USA’s 3-0 loss to Germany, with two of the goals coming in stoppage time of the second half. “It’s an end of an era for the veterans and they created so much for women’s soccer. That was the hardest thing to stomach about losing. You always want to see people as great as they are go out on top. It definitely still stings and hurts, but the way the veterans dealt with the loss made me appreciate them even more.”

While Reddick’s defensive play was not a huge surprise, her composure under the pressure of such a huge competition was admirable at worst, a sign that she could be a mainstay in the USA’s back line for the foreseeable.

“Stepping in for Brandi is not an easy thing to do,” admitted Reddick. “I was a little nervous even in the games I started. I mean, I was nervous every game because it was the World Cup. I could have allowed my nerves to get the best of me and maybe used my inexperience as an excuse. But after the first game when I knew I would be starting, it was a little better because I was able to prepare myself a little bit better.”

But the biggest surprise came against North Korea in the final game of first round play when Reddick, who had one career full international goal coming into the match, doubled, then tripled her career output.

“That was the best game ever,” said Reddick, who scored the USA’s second and third goals in the 3-0 win, the first coming when she bundled the ball into the net with her leg after Julie Foudy had flicked on a corner kick. “I am still shocked. I never imagined that I’d even score one goal. My expressions on TV were exactly how I felt. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe my thigh just put the ball in the net. To score another one, well, it’s still hard to believe it actually happened.”

Reddick scored her second goal on a brilliant header from a perfect Shannon MacMillan chipped cross and was named Player of the Match by the FIFA Technical Study Group.

“It was funny, because when I won the player of the game award, Briana (Scurry) was like, ‘they never give that to a defender!’ I guess you have to score goals to be player of the game, but scoring goals is a lot of fun.”

But while Reddick was enjoying the Women’s World Cup to the hilt, which included six cities, tons of media interviews, chartered flights and autograph seekers at every turn, a part of her heart was left back in Chapel Hill, N.C. The only college player and only amateur on the U.S. Women’s World Cup Team, she had to balance the excitement of the Women’s World Cup with missing the first half of her final college season at the University of North Carolina. There was never any doubt that Reddick would opt for the Women’s World Cup in her home country over her college season, but that doesn’t mean it was an easy decision.

“Being my senior year, I felt like I was missing the last time I would ever do things,” said Reddick. “The last time I would have an opening game, things like that. I was missing out on the relationships with the other seniors and all the rest of my teammates. Just missing out on the simple things kind of made me sad. But the positives were that I was playing in the Women’s World Cup and I’ve been dreaming about playing in one since I knew there was one.”

After helping the USA win the Third Place Match over Canada in Carson, Calif. on Oct. 11, Reddick headed back to UNC the next day and played her first college game on Tuesday, Oct. 14, against Wake Forest after missing 12 regular season games. She made up for lost time quickly, coming off the bench to score a goal and got an assist in the 6-0 win.

UNC was 12-0-0 when Reddick returned, a record that perhaps made women’s college soccer coaches across the country cringe: “So, UNC is 12-0-0, and they are getting a starting player from the Women’s World Cup team back?”

Reddick helped UNC kick their game to an even higher level and the Tar Heels are 21-0-0 heading into the NCAA Tournament. Reddick has four goals and capped the season by scoring a penalty kick in the 86th minute to give her team the ACC Tournament title, 3-2, over Florida State.

Despite missing most of the season, Reddick was still named All-ACC, made the All-ACC Tournament Team and will no doubt be a First-Team All-American.

“Coming back to my college season after playing in a World Cup and doing so well kind a makes for a great fall, but of course, we still have a lot of hard work to do in the NCAA tournament,” said Reddick.

For Reddick, it wasn’t a totally smooth transition, but smoother than the year before, when she missed two weeks of the college season due to the Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament.

“It was definitely hard coming back to the team,” said Reddick. “To be away for so long, the chemistry of the team is developing, players are learning their roles and it’s difficult to jump back in even though I’m senior. But, everyone was so happy for me and they’ve made the transition easier than expected. I’ve been having so much fun this year.”

She got that right.

Download this issue of Center Circle (.pdf).

Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder [“Best of U.S. Soccer 2003”: Who Should Win]
2) In Threes [w/ U-20 MNT forward Mike Magee]
3) Making it to the Show [w/ U-23 MNT defender Nat Borchers]
4) Queries & Anecdotes [w/ WNT defender Brandi Chastain]
5) Mark That Calendar [U-20 MNT vs. Group D Opponents – Nov. 29-Dec. 5]
6) Superstar!!! [w/ WNT defender Cat Reddick]
7) Point/Counterpoint [Who will win MLS Cup?]
8) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" [U.S. U-20 World Championship Trivia]

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