Just 4 years old when the United States women's team won the World Cup of soccer in 1999, Cari Roccaro was too young to appreciate the accomplishment that made Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain household names. Now that team has become her inspiration.
Roccaro, about to turn 17 and an incoming senior at East Islip High School, plays for the Under-18 U.S. Women's National Team and dreams of one day playing in the World Cup. Though she doesn't remember seeing Chastain's shootout goal that gave the United States the win over China, Roccaro says she has watched "Dare to Dream," the 2008 documentary about the team, about 30 times.
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"I watch it and just hope that's going to be me someday," Roccaro said. "It just reminds me that this is what it takes to make it to that level. I just need to keep working hard because there's always someone that's going to be working harder. And if you do that, you'll make it."
"It shows how much talent the girls have and the U.S. has," said Massapequa's Amanda Reverberi, who was Newsday's Player of the Year as a senior last fall and will go on to play at Loyola University Maryland this fall. "I would die to play for that. That just motivates me to work harder as a player and to play the way they play."
Added Northport's Kristi Abbate, an incoming senior: "The fact that they've come this far and it's been so close each game is just so inspiring. It shows that you can really never give up, and with hard work you can make it to the final and really accomplish anything you want."
The success of this year's World Cup team has also brought more exposure to the sport. "To see it being televised on ESPN, just seeing how much coverage that it's getting, it's very encouraging for the game," said Hauppauge High School girls soccer coach Jesseca Kulesa.
Roccaro said she will watch the game from her hotel in Colorado, where she is playing in a tournament with her Albertson Soccer Club team. And she'll imagine herself in their shoes.
"Younger players are going to have to step up to live up to their dreams and the U.S. standards," Roccaro said, "because now we have to keep winning them."