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Team USA captivates locals

Women's World Cup

Venturini-Hoch, along with several local coaches and players have been swept away by U.S. women's soccer team.

July 13, 2011|By Steve Virgen, steve.virgen@latimes.com

Tish Venturini-Hoch spent Wednesday morning in front of the television watching her favorite soccer team with family. It's a much different view now on, what she calls, "the other side."

Venturini-Hoch, a Costa Mesa resident, played for the U.S. women's soccer team in 1999 when the Americans won the World Cup. She enjoyed the high-spirited atmosphere and huge support then. She's also taking pleasure as a fan now.

"I'm having a ball watching this team," Venturini-Hoch said Wednesday after Team USA defeated France, 3-1, to advance to Sunday's World Cup final. "What a great group of girls. It's fun to see on the other side of the tilt, just a common folk. It's been great."

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Venturini-Hoch is one of many Newport-Mesa residents who have been swept away by the U.S. women's team, which pulled off an amazing come-from-behind victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals Sunday. Team USA trailed, 2-1, before Abby Wambach headed in a goal in the 122nd minute. The Americans then won on penalty kicks, 5-3.

"For them to dig that out, that's the most incredible game I've ever seen," Venturini-Hoch said. "What an amazing game that was. They got some bad calls, but they just kept fighting. Abby is just a warrior."

Venturini-Hoch watched Sunday's game at her home, where she lives with her husband, Casey. They have a son, Cooper, 7, and daughter, Sadie, 4.

Tuesday she was with more family in Modesto, where she grew up. She plans to watch Sunday's final in Modesto.

So many others are making plans to watch the championship match. Jessica Gatica, the Estancia High girls' soccer coach, has blocked off time during her bachelorette party in San Diego so that she'll be able to watch the final.

She's marrying Jeff Perry, the Eagles' activities director. He should know by now Gatica's passion for the game.

"I'm super stoked," said Gatica, also the Estancia girls' athletic director. "It's such a great time."

Gatica has been training with her girls' soccer team during the summer. Instead of working out Wednesday, she took the squad to a pizza place in Huntington Beach to watch the semifinal match.

"I think this has put [women's soccer] back on the map," Gatica said. "Tons of kids have played soccer, but something like this just brings back the popularity and exposure. It's the most popular sport in the world. More and more people are coming to it here. For a lot of us who are soccer fans, this means so much to us."

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