Women’s World Cup inspires local girls to play

ADDISON COUNTY — “Very happy for USA!” was 10-year-old Alice Livesay’s response when asked what her thoughts were on the United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s 13-0 win over Thailand on Tuesday.
After school that afternoon, Alice, her 7-year-old sister Dana and the rest of their family gathered on the couch in front of the TV at home in Middlebury and watched the U.S. women’s first game of the World Cup. This summer, from June 7 through July 7, France is hosting 24 countries in the eighth Women’s World Cup.
Despite being 3,500 miles away, girls like Alice and Dana across Addison County are tuning in to watch the tournament with each other or their families. As entertaining as the Men’s World Cup was to watch last summer, many young women and girls feel differently about the women’s tournament.
According to Harper Sinclair, a sophomore at Middlebury Union High School and a member of the varsity girls’ soccer team, it is exciting “seeing girls succeed at such a high level.” While she considers both men’s and women’s soccer to be engrossing, she finds that she learns more from watching women’s soccer because she can identify with and relate to the players.
Others learn from the World Cup from a different perspective. Leda Francis, the head coach of the Addison United Under-12 girls’ soccer team, also watches the Women’s World Cup to learn, but for a different reason than her players. She likes to watch how the players move the ball and work together and “implement that into the girls” she coaches.
There is no doubt that Jill Ellis, the head coach of the United States women’s soccer team, provides a good role model for coaches like Francis. After Ellis was appointed to that post in May 2014, the women’s national team won the World Cup in 2015, and with the 13-0 win Tuesday afternoon, it is clear that there could be more success on the way.  
Players are also role models for young fans. For Elsa Masefield, a third-grader at Lincoln Community School and a strong player for Addison United, learning from the USA team members occurs when they are both on and off the field.
Elsa is an avid USA women’s soccer fan, especially of striker Alex Morgan. Elsa identified Morgan as her favorite player after watching “Alex & Me,” a movie in which Morgan plays herself and helps a young girl after she does not at first make a club soccer team. Morgan serves as a role model, someone Elsa said she could “learn techniques” from and “use them in her games.”
In addition to learning from professional women’s soccer, Ivy Doran, an MUHS freshman and Far Post club player, said that she enjoys watching women’s soccer more because “there is less stopping for injuries.”
Masefield also said the number of fouls and injuries — both real and embellished — in men’s soccer lead her to favor women’s soccer. She believes women players are “more honest about their injuries.” Ivy and Elsa are not alone in thinking this. Over the years, criticism has grown over “diving” and tactical faking of injuries in men’s soccer.
Certainly, there is agreement that many are gathering to view the women’s games. As a whole, the World Cup brings the world together for a month and creates communities of soccer-lovers, both large and small. Sinclair described the tournament as a unique period in which “people put aside their differences to see a team that they support and can rally around.”
Mardi Horne, an MUHS sophomore and also a member of the Tiger varsity, agreed with Masefield that watching the women’s World Cup helps to raise her skill level, but more importantly it brings her family together.
Mardi’s younger sister, Meredith, is in sixth grade at Mary Hogan Elementary School, and they and their parents, Matt and Tracy Horne, who are Addison United coaches, are all passionate soccer fans. Mardi describes soccer as a “defining aspect of (her) family.” All four family members play and have enjoyed watching the World Cup together.
At Vergennes Union High School, 8th-grader Sydney Adreon, a member of the Queen City Soccer Club, has been providing her peers with soccer viewing on her Chromebook during their last week of school. At lunch, Adreon will have a crowd gather around her screen, peering over each other’s shoulders to look at all the games.
“People are just excited watching the game around my computer,” Adreon said.
But she headed home after school this past Tuesday to watch the romp over Thailand with her dad. Like most U.S. fans Adreon enjoyed the performance.
“I felt proud to have our country be so good,” she said.
After that 13-0 win that Tuesday, U.S. fans were optimistic. At the risk of speaking too soon, Sinclair, who watched the United States take on and defeat Germany live in the semifinals in the 2015 World Cup, said she is feeling good about another U.S. World Cup win. After seeing the women have their way with Thailand, she reported that “it looks like the same core group,” and a strong one, at that.
Masefield attended a more recent game, the U.S. women’s defeat of Mexico on May 26 in their last contest before the World Cup opener. She is feeling just as confident, if nothing else, because the U.S team seems to have the support it needs to succeed.
Masefield’s take: “The lines for food were super long,” “People were super pumped,” and there was “really good energy.” 
Helen Anderson is an MUHS graduate who attends Scripps College and is interning at the Independent.

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