July 12, 2016
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Â¢ÃƒÆ’Â¢’Â¬” A pair of former stars with the Virginia women’s soccer program will seek a gold medal this summer as Morgan Brian (St. Simons, Ga.) and Becky Sauerbrunn (St. Louis, Mo.) were named to the U.S. Olympic Team on Tuesday. Current Virginia head coach Steve Swanson will also serve on the staff as an assistant coach, continuing his role with the US Women’s National Team (USWNT).
Emily Sonnett (Marietta, Ga.), who finished her career with the Cavaliers in 2015, was named as an alternate to the Olympic Team on Tuesday.
“As a program we could not be more proud of Becky, Morgan and Emily,” Swanson said. “They have worked extremely hard, especially this past year, to put themselves in a position to make the Olympic roster and to see them impact the team like they have is exciting. Not only are they exceptionally talented players, but they also are excellent leaders, competitors and above all teammates. I am confident they will represent the United States of America and the University of Virginia with honor, class and dignity.”
“(Becky) has been great,” said U.S. head coach Jill Ellis of her captain. “She obviously has the respect of the coaches and players. When I named her captain I told her she would grow in this role and she’s done that. She’s always been one to lead by example, but now she’s had to be more vocal. She’s a natural fit and that’s what has made her a great captain.”
Sauerbrunn will serve as a team captain for the squad as she competes for her second Olympic gold medal as a part of the U.S. team. She claimed her first gold in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The tenacious defender earned her first cap in her first start with the US Women’s National Team on January 16, 2008 against Canada. Since then, she has gone on to earn 107 caps and helped the USWNT claim the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. That season, she led the team with 25 starts and 2,184 minutes played. She also helped the USWNT to a second-place finish in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
A three-time All-American at Virginia, Sauerbrunn was named the 2003 ACC Freshman of the Year in her first season competing for the Cavaliers. She would go on to be a four-time All-ACC selection, while also claiming ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2007. Sauerbrunn was also named the NSCAA Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2007.
For her career, the defender played 8,523 minutes on the Virginia back line to rank second all-time in program history for minutes played in a career.
“Any time you get to represent the United States is a tremendous honor,” Sauerbrunn said. “I’m thrilled to be going to my second Olympic Games. It is a truly unique experience being a part of Team USA with all these athletes competing in all these different disciplines. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and being a part of something bigger than just your team. In that sense it’s quite different from the World Cup where the spotlight and pressure rest solely on our team.”
Brian will be appearing in her first Olympic Games after helping the USWNT claim the 2015 Women’s World Cup alongside Sauerbrunn. Since earning her first cap on June 15, 2013 against the Korean Republic, Brian has earned 53 caps and scored four goals in international play with the USWNT.
The top draft pick of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2014, Brian split time competing with the USWNT and helping lead Virginia to a runner-up finish in the NCAA Championship. A three-time All-American, Brian earned National Freshman of the Year honors in 2011 and followed that up with National Player of the Year honors in 2013.
Also a four-time All-ACC selection, Brian was honored as the MAC Hermann Trophy winner in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014. She finished her career second in assists (43) and fifth in goals (41) in the UVA record book.
“Making the Olympic team is a life-long dream,” Brian said. “It’s always an amazing feeling fulfilling a dream and one we have all worked incredibly hard for. We want to bring back the gold medal and do something no other team has done before, all while representing the Red, White and Blue.”
Sonnett was named the 2015 ESPNW National Player of the Year and was also named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year after helping lead the Cavaliers to the ACC regular-season championship last fall. She was a two-time All-America selection at Virginia and started all 26 games as a junior, helping the Cavaliers advance to the NCAA Championship game and a runner-up finish.
As an alternate, Sonnett will travel with the team to Brazil. Alternates may replace an injured or ill player at any time during the tournament starting 24 hours before the team’s first match.
“Immediately, we select a roster of 18, but then we bring four alternates with us,” Ellis said. “In the last Olympics, Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press were alternates. So I think that role is critical, it keeps training alive. It allows us to do certain things at training and their moral and their energy is very important. Everything about them has to be completely professional, so you have to pick the right people for that role and I very much feel that we have that.”
The U.S. Olympic Team will begin play in the First Stage on Wednesday, Aug. 3 against New Zealand.