To one end, the goal of the U.S. Women’s Deaf National Soccer team is to win gold medals – to go head-to-head with international competition in places like Taiwan, Turkey and Bulgaria.
But to another end, it’s about more than that. Sydney Andrews discovered as much this summer.
“We all come from different backgrounds, but there’s that automatic bond that brings you all together,” said Andrews, an All-Metro pick for Northwest this spring. “It’s something that nobody else can understand and, almost automatically, you begin to look out for each other. I love my teammates it was amazing experience.“
Andrews, a defender, didn’t come off the field for the U.S. squad this month at the World Deaf Soccer Championships in Ankara, Turkey, culminating in a 1-0 win over Russia on Saturday for the gold medal. It was her first international competition with the U.S. squad and the Americans went 5-0.
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“I think the biggest evidence of how well she did is we only gave up two goals in five games,” said U.S. coach Yon Struble, who is also the women’s soccer coach at Carnegie Mellon University. “I also think she learned a lot and picked up things quickly, which is one of the reasons why we were so successful.”
Andrews, who begins her freshman season at Missouri Western in two weeks, didn’t make it to Turkey without her fair share of sweat – and uncertainty.
After she learned about the team from Washburn coach Tim Collins, Andrews got into contact with Struble in February and was invited to a tryout in Atlanta. She played well enough there to get invited to another training session in Columbus, Ohio, in April, where she played in a game for the U.S.
One week later, back in Wichita, she found out she made the final, 19-player roster via an e-mail from Struble. The team’s members range in age from 16 to 31.
“I was so happy,” Andrews said. “There is definitely an emotional and physical toll it takes on you so when you finally get that great news there’s a sense of relief.”
Andrews’ next challenge was monetary – she had to raise $5,000 to cover the costs of her trip. She put together a letter that she sent out to friends, family and a few local businesses and was overwhelmed by the response.
Andrews met her goal and then some – raising enough money to tryout for the team again next year as the Americans try to defend their 2009 gold medal at the Deaf Olympics in Sofia, Bulgaria.
“People were just incredibly generous,” said Sydney’s mother, Sarah. “We were shocked by how willing people were to help. I don’t know how Sydney pulls off what she pulls off and makes it look so easy – she is incredible.”
Andrews and the U.S. team left on July 11 to begin training in Turkey in advance of Worlds.
“I put pressure on myself, but playing for your country is a different kind of pressure,” Andrews said. “You realize you’re representing a lot more than yourself or your team.”
Andrews had a large contingent of family and friends at the airport when she returned home Sunday night. Her parents, Sarah and James, were able to go to Turkey to see her play, a trip that makes the upcoming MIAA schedule seem like a walk in the park.
“I’m not quite prepared for her to leave for college,” Sarah said. “Everybody says I’m the crier in the family, so we’ll see how I take it.”