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NO HIDING HER ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Christie Rampone has risen from "tiny Monmouth" University to U.S. soccer's top echelon.
Published Nov. 10, 2008

Considering the magnitude of winning an Olympic gold medal, you would think winners would stash their hardware someplace secure.

Christie Rampone?

"I keep them in my kitchen in the pots and pans," said Rampone, a defender on two gold-winning (and one silver-winning) U.S. women's soccer teams, chuckling. "I figure that's the last place someone would look."

Rampone's hiding spot may be unconventional but it suits her rise to one of the most decorated American players. She is part of the U.S. team that plays South Korea in a friendly (exhibition) tonight at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The U.S. roster shows players with pedigrees from soccer powerhouses such as North Carolina, UCLA and Stanford. Rampone, 33, attended New Jersey's Monmouth University.

"Yep, tiny little Monmouth," Rampone said.

"It was a lot of hard work but also a little bit of luck," she said of her national-team rise.

Rampone, who went by her maiden name, Pearce, until her 2001 marriage to husband Chris, was a three-sport star in high school and attended Monmouth on a basketball scholarship. After working out a deal with the coach, she was allowed to walk on the soccer team.

Then-national team coach Tony DiCicco, who was at a Central Connecticut State match against Monmouth while visiting a friend, spotted the speedy Rampone.

But when she was invited to the national team camp in 1997, women's soccer was still under the sports radar in this country, and Rampone wasn't sure what she was getting into.

"There was a fax to (Monmouth) that invited me to a training camp with the national team," she said. "I really didn't even know what (camp) was all about. I thought it was just a college all-star thing for seniors."

The sport's profile skyrocketed in 1999 when the United States won the World Cup in Pasadena, Calif., and then-team member Brandi Chastain celebrated by ripping off her jersey and exposing her sports bra.

An Olympic silver and two gold medals later - including gold this year at the Beijing Games - Rampone is the captain of the national team. She played all 600 minutes during the games in Beijing at center back, and her sturdy defense helped shut out rival Brazil 1-0 in the gold-medal match.

Rampone ranks in the top 10 all time in appearances for the United States, and with Kristine Lilly on maternity leave, she is the most capped player on the roster.

Monmouthcelebrated Christie Rampone Day on Oct. 5.

"It was definitely a different path getting here," she said. "That day (Oct. 5) I just lost it. I was standing there in a place where it all started with all three medals around my neck, and I thought, 'Wow.' It was such a powerful moment."

Fast facts

Achieve Your Gold Tour

Who: United States vs. South Korea

When/where: 7 tonight;Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Tickets: $18-$150 through Ticketmaster at outlets, (727) 898-2100, (813) 287-8844 and ticketmaster.com.

FAST FACTS

Achieve Your Gold Tour

Tonight is the final of three games vs. South Korea on the tour, a series of friendlies (exhibitions) showcasing the Beijing Olympics' gold medal-winning U.S. women's team. The U.S. team beat Ireland three times on the tour in September and is 1-0-1 against South Korea. The tour ends next month with two matches vs. China.