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Gamecocks Excited about Women's World Cup, Upcoming Season

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Brandi Chastain.jpgThe image of Brandi Chastain ripping off her jersey and celebrating Team USA's dramatic 1999 World Cup win in her sports bra is arguably one of the most iconic sports images ever. The victory was a spark for Women's Soccer and a group of superstar players including Chastain, Mia Hamm, and Julie Foudy to burst on to the national and international stage. A generation of young soccer players flourished with new role models to follow.

"I remember watching the games and I wanted to be them," said South Carolina senior forward/midfielder Lolly Holland. "They made our dream seem like it could be a reality. It was really inspiring. From that moment I knew I wanted to play at the highest level like they were and that's what I've worked for. They started just like we did and gave us hope that we could do it too."

Women's soccer has enjoyed many years of success since then and now in 2011, the nation and world are again captivated with the Women's World Cup and Team USA, who play Wednesday at noon ET vs. France in the semifinals. The South Carolina women's soccer team has been watching the Women's World Cup all along, getting together as roommates or as a team to watch, particularly Team USA's riveting down-to-the-wire victory over powerhouse Brazil on Sunday.

"There were about six or seven people at my apartment watching," said senior midfielder Kortney Rhoades. "We thought it was going to be done and then all of a sudden we're all on the couches screaming. It was crazy. It just goes to show that the game literally is until the last second."

Several Gamecocks have national and international experience, including senior Kayla Grimsley who participated in training camp with the US National Team's U20 team.

"We trained just like they train. It's the same style of coaching throughout all the different age levels of the national team organization," explained Grimsley. "I've played against some of the girls who are on the World Cup team and it was a great experience because everyone there has the same mentality of winning and fighting. Just like they proved against Brazil, it's not over until the last whistle."

While names like Hamm and Chastain have retired, a new crop of young international players are inspiring other elite players like the Gamecocks.

"I'm a fan of [Brazil's] Marta. She plays my style of play. She's very technical and quick. For the US I'm a fan of Lauren Cheney and Amy Rodriguez. They're two young players who are going to change the United States program," said Grimsley.

Incoming freshman Lani Smith added, "it's great for younger girls to watch these players. I think Hope Solo has really been killing it for the US. She is just so thirsty to win."

That thirst to win won't end with the Women's World Cup in July. The summer excitement has the Gamecocks looking forward to their upcoming 2011 fall season even more.

"Every day we've been working so hard on our fitness and we think a big part of USA's success against Brazil was that they were more fit and they didn't get tired at the end of the game and that's what we've been trying to tell ourselves," said Holland. "We've been trying to match that level that they have so that if we're down in a game we can still keep playing and believe in ourselves and that we'll be fit enough. That's our main focus right now. That last sprint is going to be worth it."

-Brittany

The Gamecocks kick off the 2011 season on August 19th and play their first home match on September 2nd at 7:00 p.m. vs. Northeastern at Stone Stadium. Season tickets are available. Click here for more information.

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