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Naomi Girma: Katie Meyer tribute ‘sheds light’ on mental health

Naomi Girma and Sophia Smith decided before the USWNT's opening match to dedicate a goal celebration to their former Stanford teammate Katie Meyer. (Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Naomi Girma and Sophia Smith continue to find ways to honor their late college teammate Katie Meyer at the 2023 World Cup.

After Smith scored her second goal in the USWNT’s opening 3-0 win over Vietnam, Smith celebrated with a “zip your lips” gesture to honor her former Stanford teammate, who died by suicide in March 2022.

Meyer performed the same celebration after her title-winning save in a penalty shootout at the 2019 NCAA College Cup. Both Smith and Girma were on that Stanford team, and both have committed to raise awareness about mental health in Meyer’s honor.

Ahead of the World Cup, Girma wrote a piece for the Players’ Tribune about Meyer and about a new USWNT partnership with Common Goal to help athletes with their mental health.

“After the World Cup, we’re going to send out mental health professionals to youth sports organizations in communities across the country, to make sure that the coaches and players have the tools and skills to know when someone is dealing with a mental health issue, and how to get the proper help,” she wrote. “This is personal for me, and for everyone who knew Katie. … If we have one mission, it’s for young people to feel less alone.”

Girma, who is playing in her first World Cup, also wrote about how “none of this would have happened without” Meyer. Meyer was instrumental in helping Girma recover from an ACL tear and had been one of Girma’s foremost believers, the USWNT defender wrote.

“You never bet against Katie. She was going to find a way,” she said. “I was a lot more indecisive. I remember she would always tell me, ‘You’re going to make the national team, Nay. You’re going to play in the World Cup.’ And I’d be like, ‘Ugh, I don’t even know … I really hope so.…’ She’d say, ‘No, it’s happening, Nay. Trust me. It’s happening.’

“Well, my friend…. You were right. You were always right.”

Girma confirmed Monday that Smith’s goal celebration, which Girma called Meyer’s “go-to,” was another way to honor their Stanford teammate.

Honoring Meyer is “something that’s really important to me,” Girma said. “So we said if one of us scored – probably her (Smith) – we would do that. It’s just another way of us honoring her.

“We see this as an opportunity to shed light on a lot of things that are important to us and I think that’s been something that’s at the core of this team for so long. For us to come in now and you know, carry on that legacy something that’s really important to us.”