Tuesday, September 16, 2008
New Jersey and New York fans have another exciting reason to shout: take me out to the ball game! Sky Blue FC, the new professional soccer team of the Women's Professional League (WPS) announced their first three players today at an allocation conference at The Sports Museum of America, in downtown Manhattan. Olympic Gold Medalists Christie Rampone, Heather O'Reilly, and Natasha Kai are the tri-state areas premiere appointees.
The conference was hosted by NBA All-Star and WPS part-owner Steve Nash and moderated by WPS Commissioner, Tonya Antonucci. The 21 women, who contributed to the United States National Team’s gold medal acquisition, were split among seven team areas: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, San Francisco Bay Area, Washington DC, and New Jersey. "This is a big day for Woman's Professional Soccer, as teams now have Olympic gold medalists from Beijing allocated to their home cities along with other talented national team players. These are the first building blocks for the teams as the league begins the countdown to the inaugural 2009 WPS Season," said Antonucci.
Christie Rampone, Point Pleasant, NJ native and WUSA veteran was named captain for the 2008 Beijing bound team. She's a masterful defender who played every minute of the six games in China. Christie’s skills and leadership played a major factor in the US National Team's capture of Gold. Moreover, her professional league experience acts as a guiding light for the team. “This time around we’re going to have a lot of games, which American players need to raise our level, so I think that will be good all around.”
Heather O'Reilly hails from East Brunswick, NJ with an impressive career history. Her repertoire includes a New Jersey Wild Cats Championship, a University of North Carolina NCAA MVP designation, and All-Conference, County, and State acquisitions-all four years of high school. O’Reilly’s consistent dedication to her craft also makes her an invaluable asset to the team, but she attributes her success to a united team effort and excellent leadership. “Ian has an incredible knowledge of the game. Between him, Julie Foudy, and the 2009 team there is so much more for me to learn.”
Not only is Natasha Kai a forward to be reckoned with. She is the first-ever Hawaiian to make the Woman’s National Team and Woman’s World Cup Team. As the player who scored the winning goals in the game that lead to Olympic placement and the Gold Medal victory over Brazil, this Kahuku, Ohau spitfire appreciates the opportunities that soccer has provided. “We’re far from the U.S., and there aren’t that many opportunities in Hawaii. We have to go the extra mile. I was lucky. I stayed home, went to college, and the tables turned in my favor. I got noticed.”
The rebirth of a women's professional league within the New Jersey corridor provides significant role-models for young ladies and the opportunity to increase industry awareness to non-traditional markets. Ian Sawyers, Head Coach & General Manager explained, “We have the opportunity to reach everybody…and show them the health benefits of soccer. When you are out on the field for 90 minutes, you’re moving for 90 minutes. It’s an intense cardio workout that can keep kids healthy.”
The combination of skill, dedication, underscored international achievement, health benefits, and a national fan base- foreshadows a promising future of Sky Blue FC and the WPS league.
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