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Labor of Love : Julie Foudy’s Soccer Schedule Leaves Her Little Time to Rest

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It doesn’t happen often, so Julie Foudy is using her spare month to catch up with friends, log some serious beach time and otherwise enjoy a Southern California summer.

Time to herself is a rare pleasure for Foudy, who spent all but seven days last summer either preparing for the fall soccer season at Stanford or traveling with the U.S. national women’s soccer team.

Foudy’s current respite comes after a hectic few months. Since April, the national team has played in Bulgaria, Haiti, France, Holland, Germany and Denmark, keeping her away from Stanford for all but three of the 10 weeks of the spring quarter.

It was a test of high-tech scholarship--Foudy received class notes by fax machine and returned to campus just in time to take her final exams. “I’ll never go to class again if I did well,” Foudy jokes.

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Yet, Foudy doesn’t rest too easily. She’s looking for temporary employment and likely will help in her father’s business. “I feel guilty, all my friends are working,” she said.

Foudy will be back to work soon enough; she loves her soccer labors. And two years after the Mission Viejo High graduation ceremonies she missed because of a tournament in Italy, Foudy remains immersed in the sport.

Next month she’ll help teach a youth clinic. Later in July, she’ll be in China for another tour with the national team. Then it’s back to Palo Alto to prepare for her junior season at Stanford.

Foudy juggles this schedule with aplomb. Her coach at Stanford, Berhane Andeberhan, says she not only puts in extra work on the soccer field but also finds time to do volunteer work in the community.

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“She’s just the perfect model because she’s also a scholar-athlete,” Andeberhan said. “She epitomizes the type of character we like to have on our team.”

For the past two seasons, Foudy has guided the Stanford offense from her attacking midfielder position and last fall was a first-team All-American selection after helping the Cardinal to its first NCAA playoff berth.

On the national team, Foudy is one of the reasons the United States is a favorite to win the first FIFA Women’s World Championships--a sort of women’s “World Cup"--in November in China.

Foudy joined the team at 16, the summer before her junior year at Mission Viejo. The national 19-and-under team, of which she was a member, was a fill-in at an international tournament in Minnesota. After the youth team advanced to the finals--which was further than the U.S. national team advanced--the national team’s coach decided to move up five players from the youth team.

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Foudy was one.

“When I was younger, it was like this unobtainable goal,” she said of making the national team. “I didn’t realize that I had the potential to play for the national team until that summer.

“It kind of blew me away; it was so quick. I really didn’t have time to think about whether I could play at that level or not.”

No one else expressed doubt. Foudy became a starter in the spring of 1989 during the tournament in Italy, and her move into the lineup has helped the team become one of the best in the world, national team Coach Anson Dorrance said.

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Foudy’s attacking style gives the United States the equivalent of a fourth forward, if necessary, and lately she has been dropping back on defense to play stopper.

“Her versatility gives our team a lot of its capabilities,” Dorrance said. “Not only because of what she does for us on the field--which is prodigious--but she is great for the team’s unity.”

There’s quite a bit more scoring in women’s international soccer than in men’s, but the U.S. team has taken it to extremes lately. In April in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, at the qualifying competition for the FIFA championships, the team won five games by outscoring its opponents, 49-0.

A few weeks later, the women toured Europe and won three of five games against tougher competition. The United States lost to national teams from Holland, 4-3, and Denmark, 1-0.

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“I think we know that (the world championship) is not going to be something that we can just breeze through,” Foudy said. “I think that was why the European trip was good. I think we’re one of the best, but it’s not like we’re up here and everyone else is way below.”

Foudy knew a time when opponents were way below. At one point during her high school career, Mission Viejo went 84 games without a defeat. The Diablos won Southern Section titles in Foudy’s first three seasons and lost in the semifinals to Simi Valley her senior year. Three times she was The Times Orange County player of the year and twice she was the Southern Section offensive player of the year.

One of the nation’s top soccer recruits and with a grade-point average of better than 4.0, Foudy was offered scholarships by 20 schools but quickly narrowed her choices to Stanford and North Carolina, where Dorrance coaches. North Carolina had the soccer credentials--the Tar Heels have now won eight of the past nine NCAA titles--and a scholarship to offer, but Foudy chose Stanford.

“I was afraid I would be too soccer-oriented,” Foudy said. “They’re always in the national championships. I felt I would lose a lot of the academic standing that I gained in high school.

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“I think that was one of my biggest worries. I didn’t want to be so focused on soccer that it became my whole life.”

At Stanford, Foudy, 20, is taking an interdisciplinary course of study called human biology, but has yet to decide on an emphasis. Pre-med is a possibility.

Because Stanford doesn’t offer women’s soccer scholarships, she is paying for her education with a combination of grants, loans and help from her parents. But she is certain she made the right decision.

Foudy has also decided to play for Stanford this season rather than take time off to train with the national team. She plans to graduate in four years, and because she isn’t on scholarship she cannot financially afford to take a redshirt season this year.

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In other words, she must use her eligibility this season or effectively lose it. But Foudy is more concerned about playing the season with her teammates, especially the seniors who include former Laguna Hills player Heather McIntyre. However, if the Cardinal makes the NCAA playoffs again, Foudy will be in China playing for the world title.

And the decision means more schedule juggling and possibly a few weekend trips to Chapel Hill, N.C., where the national team will be training.

But for Foudy that’s a small trip to take.


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