England forward Alessia Russo is carrying her time at the University of North Carolina with her as she prepares for her first World Cup final on Sunday.
“I thought if it’s good enough for the USWNT, who all go through the college system and have won so much, then I thought it would be good enough for me,” Russo told One Football of her decision to attend UNC.
“We had an Under-17 World Cup in Jordan and right after that I went out and visited the University of North Carolina and fell in love with the coaches, the players, the place, the weather and decided that that was where I wanted to go.”
With the Tar Heels, Russo wore No. 19 — the same number USWNT stars Mia Hamm and Crystal Dunn wore at UNC. It was brought out of retirement for Russo, and she delivered, earning ACC Freshman of the Year honors after scoring nine goals in 19 games that season. In honor of the two UNC alums, Russo wore a Hamm patch on one sleeve and a Dunn patch on the other.
it’s true, it’s true👇🏽 https://t.co/43mF2W60YI pic.twitter.com/ddzKYYArKI— deeps (@aeroastrofc) August 17, 2023
it’s true, it’s true👇🏽 https://t.co/43mF2W60YI pic.twitter.com/ddzKYYArKI
“They then said they were going to bring it out of retirement and told me about Crystal and Mia wearing it before and then I was kind of like ‘woah,'” Russo said. “I didn’t know the magnitude that this shirt held, but I guess I had to step up to the challenge of it in my freshman year. You go in as a freshman and have to try and impress.”
Russo went on to star with the Tar Heels for two more seasons. She was named a First Team All-American in 2018 — the first to earn the honor since Dunn in 2013 — and again in 2019 after leading the team to the College Cup final with 19 goals during the regular season.
Playing in her first World Cup with England this summer, the 24-year-old Russo has scored three goals, including the game-winner in the quarterfinals and one in the Lionesses’ 3-1 win over Australia in the semifinals.