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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Southland Focus: A look at
area athletes making their mark at the Summer Games
: Soccer

No-Leak Fawcett

U.S. Defender Plays Many Roles On and Off Field, but Little Gets Past Her

August 04, 1996|MIKE HISERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATHENS, Ga. — Joy Fawcett is not the star of the U.S. women's soccer team. Never has been, probably never will be.

She goes largely unrecognized and, by all accounts, seems to prefer it that way.

After all, who wants the prey paying close attention?

Fawcett, a defender, prefers to lie in wait, pouncing at the right moment.

She does a masterful job. And she has a gold medal to prove it.

Fawcett, one of the senior members on the American squad, did not score the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over China in the Olympic gold-medal match Thursday.

But she did just about everything else.

She made the steal that set up the play, intercepting a pass intended for China's Xie Huilin near midfield. After centering a pass to forward Mia Hamm, Fawcett then sprinted down the sideline and took a return pass into the corner.

From there, she crossed the ball to a wide-open Shannon MacMillan.

Goal, match, medal. Just like that.

"Some defenders are crunchers," U.S. Coach Tony DiCicco said. "Joy's not like that. She picks your pocket. She's actually elegant and graceful, the way she does it. She makes it look easy."

Same goes for off the soccer field.

Fawcett, who DiCicco says is "the best defender in the world," goes by several other titles around those closest to her.

Mom, wife, coach.

Fawcett, 28, is the only mother on the U.S. team. She and husband Walter have a 2-year-old daughter, Katelyn, who travels with the team.

"Playing and being a mother takes some juggling, but it's also a lot of fun," Fawcett said. "I enjoy having her with me and I try to spend as much time with her as possible."

On Saturday, while almost all of her teammates gathered for a congratulatory conference call with President Clinton, Fawcett was out shopping with Katelyn and teammate Carla Overbeck.

"I could never keep [Katelyn] with me without their help," Fawcett said of her teammates. "They help me with baby-sitting and have been totally supportive."

As for Katelyn, she has Mom's job description down. Mommy is running and kicking, kicking and running, she says.

Soccer runs in the family. Fawcett's brother, Eric Biefeld, is a former UCLA star who helped the Bruins win a national title in 1985.

Fawcett became UCLA's coach in 1993, but during her collegiate playing days soccer was only a club sport. She played at Cal, where she was a three-time All-American and established the school's career record with 55 goals and 23 assists.

If she played another position, Fawcett still might be a scoring leader.

DiCicco had that in mind when he switched her to midfield at the start of this year. Problem was, he couldn't find anyone to replace her on defense.

"I had to put her back, but that decision had nothing to do with her performance," DiCicco said. "You saw what she can do on the flank at midfield by what she did on the game-winning goal. She basically created that play by herself."

Playing defense makes Fawcett more dangerous on offense when she decides to make a run.

"From the back, she can fly through, like she did against China," said Briana Scurry, the U.S. goalkeeper.

Otherwise, Scurry would prefer that Fawcett not leave her side.

"She's the unsung hero of this team," Scurry said. "No one realizes that more than I do. I never have to worry about the right side of the field when Joy is over there."

Fawcett broke her leg last year in the Olympic Festival, but even that didn't slow her for long. She was in a cast only three weeks.

"I wasn't going to let something like that hold me back," she said. "It was a pain in the neck more than anything."

And the gold medal, after all, makes all the years of sacrifice and toiling in obscurity worthwhile.

But now what?

Fawcett has a husband, a daughter, a job as coach and a gold medal. Why hang around?

"I've always played because I love the game," Fawcett said. "As long as I can play at this level successfully, I still plan to play."

In the next few months though, she will concentrate on family and job.

The success enjoyed by the U.S. team should make recruiting easier at UCLA.

"It should help everywhere, especially in Southern California because of the players we have from that area," Fawcett said. "Hopefully, girls now have people they can look up to and emulate and follow the same path."

Those who long to follow Fawcett, though, will have to find her somewhere other than in the spotlight.

She will let her teammates do most of the work as spokeswomen.

"The spotlight isn't for me, I don't think," she said. "They talk about it better than I do. I'm not comfortable in that setting."

And if daughter Katelyn should someday ask about Mom's role?

"I have plenty of videotape," Fawcett said.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Profile

* ATHLETE: Joy Fawcett.

* DISCIPLINE: Soccer.

* HOMETOWN: Huntington Beach.

* COMPETITIVE HISTORY: First Olympics. Played right side defense for the gold medal-winning U.S. team. Set up winning goal with a steal and assist in 2-1 victory over China in the final. Was a three-time All-American at California, where she still holds the school career scoring record with 55 goals and 23 assists. A world-class midfielder, she has played defense almost exclusively since the early spring.

* PERSONAL: Is the only mother on the U.S. team. She had daughter Katelyn in May 1994 and was back in training less than three weeks later. Is among six American players--and fewer than two dozen in the world--who have played in at least 100 international matches. The gold-medal game against China was No. 101. In 1993, she became UCLA's first women's soccer coach.

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