Family still proud of U.S. women's soccer

From left. Danielle, 20, Michelle, 19, Deanna, 18, From left. Danielle, 20, Michelle, 19, Deanna, 18, and Joann Murino, 17, of Bohemia, react to penalty kicks during World Cup final. (July 17, 2011) Photo Credit: Chris Ware

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By the final extra time of Sunday's Women's World Cup final, the soccer-playing Murino girls huddled together on their Bohemia couch, hands clasped over their mouths, afraid to take a breath.

They watched with other family members as the United States women's soccer team seesawed back and forth with Japan only to come up short in a thrilling overtime defeat.

"I'm proud," said Joanne Murino, 17, after the U.S. finally fell to the Japanese team following a dramatic penalty shootout. "At least they had a good run."

Joanne, or JoJo as her family has dubbed her, will enter her senior year this fall at Connetquot High School as a member of the girl's soccer team. She is already fielding offers to play collegiate soccer.

That should come as no surprise.

JoJo and her three sisters, Danielle, 20, Michelle, 19, and Deanna 18, have been following, and playing soccer since they were old enough to kick a ball. They've missed years of birthday parties and sleepovers because of soccer practices and games. But the sacrifice has paid off. Danielle is playing Division I soccer for Hofstra University on a full scholarship. Michelle has a similar soccer scholarship at St. John's University, and Deanna starts there in the fall -- also on a full scholarship.

For the Murino girls, soccer was always more fun than dance or track, so they stuck with it, even when none of them made the "A" team of their age divisions when they tried out for club soccer the first time.

"We came back home and kicked the ball around and practiced together all year," Michelle said. "Then the next year we all made the 'A' team."

As a family, Joanne and husband Dennis would take the sisters to watch the New York Power, a now-defunct professional women's soccer team, play their home games in Uniondale. The team's lineup featured three players from the 1999 U.S. Women's World Cup championship team. The Murino girls still have an autographed ball as evidence of the pregame meet-and-greets.

The chance to interact with professional women soccer players, Joanne Murino said, has had a significant impact on her girls. When the team's operations were suspended indefinitely, "they were so disappointed," she said.

But the girls, especially Deanna, have continued to follow professional women's soccer. They are familiar with the history and style of each player on the 2011 USA World Cup Women's team, and each has a sentimental favorite. Deanna idolizes Megan Rapinoe.

"Whenever she comes on the field, she makes something happen," Deanna said.

It's that competitive drive that their mother Joanne Murino, likes the best.

"It keeps them focused and competitive," she said. "It helps them discipline themselves."

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