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Sierra Enge on Life Without Soccer

AL CHANG/ISI PHOTOS

Sierra Enge plays midfielder for both Stanford University and the United States U20 women’s soccer team. At Stanford, she was part of the 2019 national champion winning squad that knocked off North Carolina in PKs. Below, in her own words, Enge shares what the last few weeks have been like as an athlete in quarantine.

Six weeks ago, I was in the Dominican Republic playing for the United States U20 women’s soccer team in the CONCACAF final against Mexico. Though we had already qualified for the World Cup to be hosted by Costa Rica and Panama in August, we were determined to win the tournament.

The following day I flew back to Stanford with a first place medal and an entire row to myself on the flight.

I was so happy, I started planning out my next few months while still in the air. We were supposed to have a training camp in Spain in April and two domestic camps in June and July. I knew I had to craft a spring quarter class schedule that would allow for these absences, and I was already trying to communicate my availability to my summer internship.

Fast forward to today, and I am now quarantined at home with my family taking online classes and working out on my own. Like billions of people around the world, I have no idea what the next few months hold. In just a few short weeks, I went from a period of excitement where my biggest stress was figuring out how to manage my time, to a new period of uncertainty and unknown (and plenty of free time).

I do not know when the next US training camp will be, or if the U20 World Cup will happen in August. I do not know when I will be seeing and training with my Stanford teammates again. Simply put, I do not know what the future holds.

My spring season at Stanford has been cancelled and I am now responsible for training and working out on my own while preparing for both a U20 World Cup and my fall college season, both of which are now in doubt. This spring was going to be crucial for our preparation at Stanford. Though we lost some important seniors to graduation, those of us returning are determined to win back to back national championships. Everyone was excited to get after it in spring and set the tone for the upcoming season.

For a team sport like soccer, training together is essential. Movement on and off the ball and some of the finer intricacies of the sport are nearly impossible to work on individually. Perfect cohesion within your 10 person group is required to attack and defend effectively. You can’t practice playing with other people when you’re by yourself. In addition, there is a difference between being in shape and being in soccer shape, and the only way to really be fit for a full 90 minute game is to play in games.

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ERIN CHANG/ISI PHOTOS

Another important aspect of our team that is gone is the social piece. My Stanford teammates are my sisters. We have so much love for each other and truly enjoy the time we get to spend together. This bond is what makes us click on the field.

In contrast, I’m not as close with my US teammates, as we come from all over the country and all different schools, meaning that having those camps together was going to be vital for us growing closer and bonding as a team. We are on a mission to win the U20 World Cup for our country for the first time since 2012, and we want to do everything possible to give us an advantage.

Not only am I away from my teammates and unable to play in games, but the role of soccer and sports in my life has totally changed. I used to wake up on the weekends to watch Premier League games and break up my homework during the week by watching the Lakers defend Staples Center. This part of my life is now temporarily gone, and I miss watching athletes push themselves and compete to the very best of their abilities.

This time away, however, has made my love for soccer and sports evidently clear. I am eager to be able to turn on the TV again and for there to be so many live sports on, that I have to take a moment to decide which one to watch. I also know that when I finally step back onto the field, I will play with both joy and a newfound appreciation for the sport. When the ball hits my foot in my first game back, I will definitely have a smile on my face.

One of my favorite mantras is “control what you can control.” During this time of so many uncontrollables, I am finding things I can control.

I am lucky to have an older brother who plays soccer at Tufts University and a younger sister who is going to play at Pepperdine in the fall. The three of us have been able to find open fields and make the most of our training. I am also lucky to live near the beach with awesome running trails to maintain my fitness.

If the coronavirus has given me anything, it’s time. Time that I may not always have to work on my weaknesses and develop new areas of my game, as well as time to work on those parts of my life that aren’t soccer. I am reading, doing puzzles, and practicing meditation. Most importantly, the virus has also given me more time with my family.

It is truly incredible how quickly things in your life can change. Rather than seeing my Stanford teammates everyday, I am calling them via Zoom. Rather than being in camp with the US, I am training on my own and staying in touch with my teammates and coaches via text and email.

I went from the high of winning a National Championship and a CONCACAF title within three months of each other to being home with absolutely no idea as to what comes next.

Despite these peaks and valleys, I am controlling what I can control and making the most of my time. Still, I feel for the college athletes whose seasons got cut short and cancelled. I feel for all the Olympians who were training for their shot at a gold. And I feel for athletes of all levels who can no longer train and compete as they used to, because I know just how important sports can be to someone’s identity and sense of purpose.

I urge everyone to control what you can control. Stay positive and know that the moment you get back to playing the sport you love, you will do so with a newfound passion and intensity.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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