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A CalSouth.com Exclusive: AN INTERVIEW WITH U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM STAR SHANNON BOXX

junio 27, 2011

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Interview by Joe Curley

Cal South has four alumni on the U.S. Women's National Team competing in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, which began play on Sunday, June 26. The U.S WNT takes the field against North Korea on Tuesday, June 28 in their first opening round match. As a preview for the Women's World Cup, CalSouth.com conducted interviews with three of those alumni: Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez and Shannon Boxx. The Morgan interview was published a couple of weeks ago [click here], and the Rodriguez interview was posted on Saturday [click here].

A longtime fixture on the U.S. Women's National Team and a product of Cal South, Shannon Boxx grew up in the South Bay, was a Parade All-American at South Torrance High and helped led Notre Dame to its first national championship in 1996. She even played in the W-League and the women's Bundesliga. Yet it took her performances in the WUSA to really solidify her position with the U.S. Women's National Team. The Olympic gold medalist spoke to Cal South about reaching similar success in her third Women's World Cup this summer.

Cal South: Despite the late start, you've been a mainstay on the WNT for nearly a decade. How has the game evolved during your career?

Shannon Boxx: There's a lot of ways you can look at it. Looking at the game itself, the level has just increased. Even on the U.S. team, you're seeing quality players arrive. You're seeing high quality come out from college. As a veteran and an older player, it's really fun to see the level is continuing to get higher. Then you look a lot broader and see a lot of changes to the game itself. Every game is a tough game.
Every opponent is high quality. That quality was there before, but now the other countries are paying attention and giving those women a chance to shine. You're looking at the German players going into a residency, taking what we've done in the past and saying "That worked for them. Let's do that." You're starting to see other countries paying their players, showing that women's soccer can be marketable and can be successful.

CS: For the first time, the U.S. Women's National Team suffered a loss in Women's World Cup qualifying and was forced to edge Italy in a playoff to qualify for Germany. Yet the team has still been the top-ranked team in the world. How has this quadrennial been different?

SB: I think it's been good for us. Obviously, we did what we needed to do. We came together as a team and we fought through. Going through adversities like that is good for a team. We've always prided ourselves on being a top team, but if you look at a team that can bounce back and be stronger, we're not taking anything for granted now. We just played Mexico [which handed the U.S. its qualifying defeat], and everyone had the mentality that this may be a friendly, but they had just beat us. We dominated. Lauren Cheney's goal was exciting. It gave us that momentum that you need going into a World Cup. Going into this tournament, we want to do amazingly well and we want to win the whole thing. If we do, we can look back and say the road we took was really cool.

CS: We're hearing many observers say that this will be the most competitive Women's World Cup yet.

SB: It's the progression of the women's side and the women's game. You want it to continue to increase. You want more teams to be involved. That just means that there's more competition. You do look at this World Cup and you hear people call our group the Group of Death. But you look at some of the other brackets and say those aren't easy either. The fact that ESPN is televising every game is awesome. Hopefully in the U.S., there's going to be a lot of people watching and loving it even more.

CS: So, how does it feel to be one of the veterans on the team?

SB: It's awesome. I look back and each different event that I've been in, you have these different emotions, and this is no different. I'm a veteran now. I've been through it. I'm taking every day and cherishing it, because you never know. You never know how much longer you're going to play. The thinking this time around is "Hey, let's do this thing. We haven't won one [since 1999]. Let's do it." Younger players bring the fun, fresh exciting experience; I want to see their faces at the end of this. It's kind of cool, now that I've been where they been, I think this is the most excited I've been for any event that I've been a part of. I really think that we're in a new place and it's exciting. I'm 34. I know that eventually I am going to have to move on to something else. But I'm such a competitive person. I want to win. I want to enjoy the moment of being there.

CS: It sounds like the feeling has stayed constant since your days playing in Cal South.

SB: For me, I grew up in such a great environment, playing for the Torrance United Waves. I played for them for eight years or something like that. I played for the same coach. We had a majority of the same players. A lot of them became my best friends growing up. I have a lot of fond memories of going to tournaments and memories outside of soccer. It has stuck with me. I had so much fun on that team for a lot of my childhood. I coach some kids now and they change teams all the time. They don't seem to have that same bond that I did. It's rare to see a team that stays together for a long time, and I think that's what I cherished most about that experience.

CS: So how would your career be different without WUSA?

SB: There are so many avenues to be seen, but it's so important to be in front of the right people. I was a late bloomer. I was already out of college. The only opportunity for me to get noticed was a league in our own country. There are so many players out there that you really don't know about. Maybe they didn't go to a top school. Maybe they didn't really progress until after college. The WUSA provided a place for me to be seen. I went to Germany to play after college but no one was going to notice me there. There was a great opportunity for me to come back, play professionally, playing against the best players in the world. I think I became a better soccer player. Training with Julie Foudy every day, playing against Mia Hamm made me a better player. The fact that we have the WPS is a great benefit to the Women's National Team in this country.

CS: Which makes its permanent viability important for American soccer...

SB: You'd prefer your players play closer to home, so when the National Team does play at home, they're available. You look at the future of girls' soccer and say there's another reason why it's important to exist and be viable. You look at all these young girls playing soccer and you want an area for them to play professionally. You look for the future and you see these young girls who are playing and they have role models and a goal that can truly happen. When I was girl, it was a dream, but it didn't really exist. Now these girls have something to work hard towards.

Cal South Soccer Magazine correspondent Joe Curley also covers soccer for the Ventura County Star and the Scripps Howard News Service. Joe lives in Camarillo with his wife, Rian, and daughter, Vivienne.