2003 Ladue Alumna kicks it up a notch

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Ladue alumna Becky Sauerbrunn, a member of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, got the opportunity to play in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

In order to get to where she is today, Sauerbrunn had to spend countless hours honing her skills and working with her team.  She began her career by playing for the Olivette League in Stacy Park and continued on to play high school soccer at Ladue.  Science teacher Sweeney La Barge coached Sauerbrunn all four years she was in school at Ladue.

“She was our scholar athlete,” La Barge said. “She graduated with a 4.0 and full ride offers in volleyball, basketball, and soccer.”

Matthew Prange, then assistant coach of the Ladue soccer team, coached Sauerbrunn from her sophomore through senior year. Prange was impressed with her field vision — seeing the ball in context to the field and predicting where it will go next — which was key in her supremacy in the game and as a teammate.

“I had never coached girls prior to my first years coaching Becky.  I thought it might be normal to have a player like Becky.  The longer I coached, the more I learned players like Becky don’t come along very often,” Prange said.

Sauerbrunn is the only person in the history of the professional league that has played in every game where she dressed out. This type of dedication prevented her from doing things like going out or hanging out with her friends.

“A big part of getting what you want is knowing what you want,” Sauerbrunn said. “A lot of it is you have to be dedicated and willing to sacrifice a party Friday because you have practice Saturday morning or not hanging out with friends because you have a game.  I missed proms and graduations, but in the end it was worth it because it led to something much greater.”

After playing soccer at the University of Virginia, Sauerbrunn went on to play professionally. Her performance with her professional team lead to an invitation from the national soccer team’s coach, Pia Sundhage.

“At the end of my second season playing in the professional soccer league, I got a call from the national team coach.  She said someone got injured, and they needed a substitute.  The team training camp had already started; I came 4 or 5 days late and I didn’t really have any expectations. Somehow I made it through cuts, and I made the team,” Sauerbrunn said.

This spot on the national team allowed Sauerbrunn to travel all over the world, playing in tournaments. After placing third in a tournament in Cancun, the team played Italy twice, beating them 1-0 both times, to earn a spot in the World Cup circuit.

“We traveled to China, Italy, Portugal, and England to train and play.  We trained for three weeks at a time with breaks in between.  Going in, I had no expectations, I knew I didn’t have a great shot at making the team, I’m sure it must have been a close decision,” Sauerbrunn said.

Even though she wasn’t a starter, Sauerbrunn still experienced much excitement throughout the World Cup. After a thrilling victory over Brazil, Sauerbrunn got her chance to start.

“In the game against Brazil the center back got a red card.  When you get a red card you can’t play for two games. Since I play center back, I was substituted in to play in the game against France,” Sauerbrunn said.

Sauerbrunn’s supporters provided her with encouragement during this high accomplishment. This support helped her remain calm and confident in the biggest game of her life.

“Everybody around me was more nervous than I was, which comforted me.  My family was in Germany along with my boyfriend and his family.  I went in feeling good; I was surrounded by my loved ones and I was very prepared.  I had trained pretty much my whole life for this,” Sauerbrunn said. “Once I touched the ball, everything calmed down. In the end it’s just a soccer game.”

Finally reaching the pinnacle and playing with the best of the best, Sauerbrunn reflects the ultimate example of delayed gratification and success.

“To me, making the world cup team was the realization that if you work hard, you can get what you want,” Sauerbrunn said. #