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ND Women’s Soccer

Waking the Echoes: Boxx reflects on ND career, World Cup win, future

| Monday, September 7, 2015

With the United States’ Women’s World Cup victory over the summer, Shannon Boxx concluded her professional soccer career the same way she began her time at Notre Dame: with a championship.

Boxx, a 1999 Notre Dame grad and a mainstay in the U.S. National Team’s midfield since 2003, was a freshman in 1995. That year, she appeared in 25 games as the Irish smashed their way to the program’s first-ever NCAA title.

After winning a national title in her first year, she was a part of the two highest-scoring teams in NCAA history — the 1996 Irish scored 140 goals and the 1997 squad followed up with 135.

Midfielder Shannon Boxx hurdles over a slide tackle during Notre Dame’s 6-0 win over Michigan State on Aug. 31, 1997. Boxx finished her Irish career with 39 goals and 57 assists.Observer File Photo

Midfielder Shannon Boxx hurdles over a slide tackle during Notre Dame’s 6-0 win over Michigan State on Aug. 31, 1997. Boxx finished her Irish career with 39 goals and 57 assists.

Individually, Boxx finished her collegiate career with 39 goals and 57 assists, placing her at 13th in the program record book for points, and sixth in assists.

And she was just getting started, as far as soccer goes.

Since leaving Notre Dame, Boxx won three Olympic gold medals for the United States and, of course, recently added the World Cup to her crowded trophy case. Just don’t ask her which win was the most satisfying.

“I hate that question. It’s a good question, but too hard. I’ve been a part of a lot of championships,” Boxx said, laughing. “I’ll never forget that first one, though. Notre Dame was the first place that I got to win something so big.”

Shortly after returning home from World Cup celebrations across the country, the 38-year-old announced that she would retire. The Victory Tour matches, currently underway, will be her last as a player.

“I thought I was done in ’08, but I was just enjoying myself so much,” Boxx said. “Then I thought I was done in 2012, but I still felt something was missing. I think it was that World Cup title.”

Shannon Boxx dribbles down the field in a game while at Notre Dame. Boxx competed for the Irish from 1995 to 1998. She was a part of the Notre Dame squad that won the program’s first national title in 1995.Observer File Photo

Shannon Boxx dribbles down the field in a game while at Notre Dame. Boxx competed for the Irish from 1995 to 1998. She was a part of the Notre Dame squad that won the program’s first national title in 1995.

The 2015 World Cup win was a huge milestone for U.S. women’s soccer, as the country hadn’t triumphed since the historic 1999 run.

“I’ve been a part of four World Cups, and to just barely miss out on each one, then finally come back this time around and win one — plus the journey I personally had just to get on the — it was pretty special,” Boxx said.

Boxx’s road to the Cup was certainly not an easy one. There was a question whether she would even make the roster this year coming off of a knee injury and the birth of her daughter, Zoe. That was on top of her lupus, the autoimmune disease she’s been battling for years.

“I had a lot of support, a lot of great people wanting me to be successful and helping me along the way,” Boxx said. “I had friends who would watch Zoe for an hour in the morning so I could go work out. Then my husband took nine weeks off of work to watch her while I went to the World Cup.

“Knowing that those people were willing to sacrifice so much for me to be successful pushed me to want to be successful. I’ll eventually be able to tell my daughter how hard it was, but how I was able to work so hard to get through it.”

Boxx believes that in the end, her steady veteran presence was what made United States head coach Jill Ellis keep her on the squad. Boxx was able to advise rising young stars, like Chicago Red Stars teammates Julie Johnston and Christen Press, on how to deal with the high-pressure tournament.

“It’s nice to be that experienced veteran player,” Boxx said. “You want to leave a legacy. You want to help the next generation be better than you.

“Julie, I really had some great conversations with her about what it takes to become a leader. She’s a rookie, and now has to focus on more than just herself and how she can be better. To see her shine in the World Cup was awesome.”

“I look at some of these younger players and think, ‘Man, I didn’t make the national team until I was 26 years old.’ These players that are so much younger than that are so much more technical and it’s so fun to see.”

It’s been 12 years since Boxx herself was a national team rookie. In fact, when she was named to the U.S. squad prior to the 2003 World Cup, she was the first uncapped player to ever make a World Cup squad. When she made her World Cup debut against Sweden, she scored in a 3-1 win.

She could not have guessed then how her career would unfold, she said.

“I looked at Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly, and they had been on the team for 15 years or so, and I was like, ‘I don’t see myself being able to sustain it for that long,’” Boxx said.

Now she heads into retirement with no regrets and endless accolades.

“I’m going to be a mom. I’m going to be at home and not be in hotel rooms all the time,” Boxx said. “But also, I want to coach kids. I’m already starting to plan a couple camps next season and next year. I want to help that next generation be better at soccer.”

Beyond that, she’ll also travel from her home in Portland, Oregon, to the place where she first played soccer on a major stage — here, Notre Dame. The school will honor her at the football game against Massachusetts on Sept. 26.

“College was the first time I represented something bigger than just a little club team or just myself,” Boxx said. “You represented your school and your teammates, and I loved that about Notre Dame.”

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About Renee Griffin

Notre Dame senior, formerly of Farley Hall. Originally from Lake Zurich, IL, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Enjoys talkin' about practice.

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