Like it did around the rest of the country, the U.S. Women's World Cup victory resonated throughout the St. Louis area on Sunday.
The Americans' 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the final in France hit home for many local young women — especially one from Ladue.
About three years ago, several Ladue players had a first-hand experience with Ladue alum and U.S. National team defender, Becky Sauerbrunn, who just finished playing in her third World Cup, where she helped the U.S. to its second consecutive world championship.
Recent Ladue grad Jillian Mann was part of the varsity squad as a freshman when Sauerbrunn visited the Rams, who were playing in Kansas City.
“Watching Becky play a huge role in the U.S. winning the World Cup was so amazing and eye-opening,” Mann said. “It's crazy to see someone from my own high school go on to accomplish so many great things. It really shows how hard work and dedication pays off, and inspires me and many others to always work hard to achieve our goals.”
Madeline Billeaud, who was a senior captain on the 2016 Ladue team that met Sauerbrunn, said that moment had a huge impact on her career.
“Every girl that plays soccer has idolized the U.S. women’s national team since the days of Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain, but having someone like Becky, who also went to Ladue, brings the success of the (team) so close to home,” Billeaud said. “Becky came to see us play in 2016 when we had a tournament in Kansas City. I can’t even describe the excitement we all felt seeing her walk towards our huddle after the game, and then talking with her after. She felt just like one of us. Even after graduating from the Ladue soccer program, I still feel so connected to the game watching her play and knowing she supported us and we support her and also seeing her and the other players fight for equality. I feel like I’m a part of something bigger than just soccer.”
For Ladue coach Dave Aronberg, Sauerbrunn, who played at Ladue from 2000-2003, is the perfect role model.
“I think there's an enormous sense of pride knowing that one the world's best soccer players grew up in your hometown playing at your high school,” Aronberg said. “I emphasize playing high school also because unlike other talents who have eschewed high school athletics in favor of club, she was truly a part of our high school fabric. She was a four-year varsity player in three sports (volleyball, basketball and soccer). So she's an easy person for current students and players to look up to. On top of that, she's an amazing person who has taken time out of her personal schedule to support our current players and team. She's one of the most humble down-to-earth pro athletes that I've ever met and it's a pleasure being associated with her.”
Sauerbrunn was part of a defensive unit that only allowed three goals in seven games in France.
Sauerbrunn, who plays for the Utah Royals — formerly FC Kansas City — of the National Women's Soccer League, has been a part of the national team since 2008. She's also emboldened many outside the Ladue community.
For Triad defender and soon-to-be senior Sierra Schlemmer, Sauerbrunn and the rest of the USWNT have been inspirational.
“I feel that every time the U.S. Women's national team wins a game or even the World Cup, for the fourth time now, it furthers women's soccer for every girl out there,” Schlemmer said. “It shows women that we can achieve something great if we push ourselves. My favorite quote actually goes, 'Don't stop when you're tired, stop when you're done.'”