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FAITHFUL FAN | Ursuline, St. Joseph’s soccer players name their heroes

Ursuline Academy and St. Joseph’s Academy players put the names of women who inspire them on their soccer jerseys

The soccer teams at Ursuline Academy and St. Joseph’s Academy took note of Women’s History Month by wearing jerseys marked with the names of inspiring women on March 27.

It was a rousing success, with most players picking the name of a relative, a national soccer team player or other athlete.

Jen Brooks, athletic director at Ursuline, said that upon seeing the U.S women’s national team wear jerseys with the name of a woman who inspired or motivated them, “I thought that was awesome concept and wondered if it was something we could implement with our team,” Brooks said.

She reached out to St. Joseph’s Academy to see if the school and its players would be interested. They jumped on board. A mutual vendor, Ryan Sykora at BSN Sports, agreed to sponsor the jerseys for the March 27 game at Ursuline. Each member of the varsity teams submitted the name of a woman who inspired or motivated them in their life. St. Joseph’s won the game 2-0, part of its 11-game win streak to start the season.

Riley Steele, a senior at Ursuline, selected her mom “because she always supports me through everything and never lets me give up on myself. She inspires me to be the best person I can be every day of my life, and I could not be more thankful for her,” Steele said.

Kate Higgins, a junior at Ursuline, also picked her mom. “I chose her because she has really taught me to be the person I am today,” Higgins stated. “Every day, I am learning new things about myself through my mom, and she has always taught me that. She is a loving, hardworking and very positive person who I am trying each day to be like.”

Maria Haro, a senior at St. Joseph’s, picked her mom “because she inspires me to work hard and be a good person.”

Mallory Kimes, a junior at St. Joseph’s picked her great aunt “because she’s 101 years old and inspires me every day to live happy and play strong.”

Some of the soccer players admired by the student-athletes are Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, Julie Ertz, Mia Hamm, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, Tobin Heath and Crystal Dunn.

It’s clear that the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team members inspire the high school players. The Women’s World Cup starts in France in less than three months. The U.S. team is ranked No. 1 in the world and won the cup four years ago. It has had more success than the men’s team, winning the cup three times and the Olympics four times. The men’s team has never won either tournament and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Four of the national players — Morgan, Lloyd, Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn — filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016, on behalf of themselves and other players regarding unequal pay. And earlier this year, 28 team members filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, accusing it of gender discrimination because they’re paid less than similar stars with the men’s team.

The pay gap is puzzling. The U.S. women’s 5-2 victory over Japan in the Women’s World Cup final in 2015 was seen by 25.4 million viewers on Fox, a record for any soccer game, men’s or women’s, shown on English-language television in this country.

The women’s national team seems to be as popular as the men’s in St. Louis. The top-ranked American women will play against New Zealand in St. Louis May 16, and a big crowd should be on hand. A similar exhibition match between the U.S. and New Zealand at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 2015 drew 35,817 fans, the largest crowd for a stand-alone women’s national team friendly match in the United States.

The high-school players’ desire to celebrate Women’s History Month and the inspiration they receive from the women soccer players shows this popularity and the need for what Pope Francis said in one of his weekly audiences in 2015 — the Christian duty to stop taking for granted that women should earn less than men.

Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.

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