Lauren Sesselmann earning superstar status with Canadian national soccer team

As euphoria builds in Canada towards the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup of Soccer, the true victory is the growing recognition of its female soccer stars. While team captain Christine Sinclair is a household name, akin to Canadian women’s hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser, the remainder of the roster is earning its well-deserved time in the spotlight.

Among the players who star status is rising rapidly is the stunning Lauren Sesselmann. Having won gold with Canada at the 2011 Pan-Am Games and a bronze medal at the 2012 London Summer Games, she has been part of a golden era in Canadian women’s soccer. With a captivating personality and girl next door looks, she continues to capture the imagination of soccer fans, both novice and familiar.

Image obtained from TSN.ca

Image obtained from TSN.ca

The most unique aspect about Sesselmann is the fact that she is an American-born player. Raised in Wisconsin, her father was born on a military base in Newfoundland, Canada. Of note, Sesselmann would only acquire her Canadian citizenship in 2010 earning her first cap for the Canadian national team on September 17, 2011. Ironically, the rival American soccer team features Sidney Leroux, a Canadian-born player from British Columbia.

Having played at the NCAA level with the Purdue Boilermakers, Sesselmann would compete at the professional level with six different teams. Selected 44th overall in the 2009 WPS Draft by the Chicago Red Stars, she would also be claimed by the Houston Dash in the 2014 NWSL Expansion Draft.

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine's Beauty of Sport edition

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition

Her first experience in Canadian popular culture stemmed from an appearance in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition. Along with national team member Kaylyn Kyle and Emily Zurrer, this beautiful trio were featured in a swimsuit photo shoot in Las Vegas. Although the photo shoot gained a new legion of fans and admirers, the upcoming World Cup is a chance to appreciate her talents on the field.

Testament to her growing popularity and celebrity status in Canada is a promising acting career. Appearing in The X-Species, a Canadian-produced film directed by Neko Sparks to be released later this year, it stands as her second acting credit. Last year, she played the role of Faith in the film Dark Awakening, which starred Jason Cook and Lance Henriksen. There is no question that the camera loves Sesselmann and vice-versa.

Complementing her budding acting career is an exercise DVD that can be purchased from her website Fit As A Pro. Conceived in the aftermath of the 2012 London Summer Games, she shares her own innovative training program. Titled Five 10-Minute Full Body Workouts for SMALL SPACES, she looks to provide guidance and consult individuals looking to get fit without any equipment needed.

Taking into account that the 20th Century saw male athletes such as Jim Brown, Chuck Connors, Frank Gifford and Joe Namath make the transition from actor to athlete, Sesselmann is setting a precedent. Over the years, several female athletes have balanced modeling careers; therefore, Sesselmann may launch a new trend that sees other female athletes consider an acting career.

Considering the hypnotic impact that hockey holds over Canadian culture, women like Sesselmann are making a strong case for soccer to be part of such inclusion. While a victory in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup would represent a remarkable milestone for Sesselmann and her teammates, her growing impact as a role model, sex symbol and pop culture icon are raising the awareness of women’s soccer in Canada.

FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup stickers poised to become collector’s items

Members of the Canadian national women's soccer team hold the Panini logl (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Panini-Womans-World-Cup-2015-Canada-Stickers/1620112151551242?fref=photo)

Members of the Canadian national women’s soccer team hold the Panini logl (Image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Panini-Womans-World-Cup-2015-Canada-Stickers/1620112151551242?fref=photo)

With any world class sporting event, merchandising becomes all too obligatory. In this case, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is not immune. Hosted in Canada, firms such as Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mint have already issued some treasured collectibles.

Another unique collectible appearing in retail outlets comes via global sticker giant Panini. Having issued a commemorative sticker album, this keepsake marks a unique milestone for Panini. Of note, it marks only the second time that a sticker album focused on female soccer is being released. The first has gained collector’s item status, issued for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Completing the set shall be an ambitious task. With over 430 stickers to accumulate, the challenge is the fact that one packet only features seven stickers. Therefore, a collector would have to purchase at least 60 packets and hope to not obtain one duplicate. Luckily, online forums exist for trading while Panini offers completists the chance to purchase remaining stickers online or via mail order.

Although the print run for the 2015 sticker album shall likely be higher than the 2011 edition (taking into consideration the size of the consumer market in Canada and the United States), the outcome is likely a very popular product. In North America, where the collecting trend is trading cards, there have never been an exclusive card set devoted to female soccer.

Over the last few years, Upper Deck has released a moderate number of women’s soccer trading cards. Said cards were featured in their World of Sport card sets (released in 2011 and 2012), along with a few high numbered cards in the Major League Soccer sets. Although Donruss (whose parent company is Panini) featured a few American-born female soccer players in a card set recognizing American sports heroes, such cards have never fully realized their potential.

With Panini’s sticker album, every athlete competing at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup shall be featured. Of note, this marks a milestone for many of these athletes as they have never been featured on a sticker or other type of collectible. Such a product can only help to stimulate interest in the game while allowing the competitors to feel a certain degree of celebrity status.

Perhaps the most important legacy of the Panini Sticker Album may be the ability to encourage a trading card manufacturer to release a full set devoted exclusively to women’s soccer. It would be even more encouraging if it was a Panini-owned company such as Donruss, Playoff and/or Score that helped get the ball rolling.

Freshman Leona Maguire stakes her claim as finest golfer in NCAA

Although basketball is the first sport that is associated when fans hear the words “Duke Blue Devils”, the university has assembled a remarkable women’s golf program. This season was no exception as the club not only qualified for the NCAA tournament, but one of its freshmen was in the hunt for the NCAA women’s individual golf championship.

Finishing one stroke behind champion Emma Talley of Alabama, Duke’s Leona Maguire managed to rack up several accolades in a memorable season. The most significant may have been winning the ANNIKA Award, recognizing her as the NCAA Division I Women’s Golfer of the Year. Of note, she became only the second Duke player to win the honor, joining Amanda Blumenhurst, who earned the honor in 2006.

In addition, Maguire also garnered the WGCA’s Player of the Year Award, placing her in rarified air. The only other Duke golfers to have earned the distinction of being recognized by the WGCA include Lindy Duncan in 2012 and Celine Boutier in 2013, giving the Blue Devils a trio of winners in the last four seasons. Of note, Maguire becomes the only Duke female golfer to win both the ANNIKA Award and the WGCA POY Award in the same season.

Such achievements were complemented by the honors of being the recipient of the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year Awards, respectively. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Maguire broke the program’s single season record for best stroke average. Finishing her freshman campaign with an average 70.8, it edged the former mark of 71.0, which was owned by Amanda Blumenhurst, currently a competitor on the LPGA tour.

This season, she also tied a Duke single-season record for most tournament wins in a season with three. Said tournaments included the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Title, the ACC Women’s Golf Individual Championship, and the NCAA South Regional Individual Title.

During the NCAA tournament, which features match play among the eight schools that qualify, Maguire contributed to Duke advancing to the semifinals. Earning a victory in her match of the quarterfinal round, it resulted in Duke prevailing against Texas Tech.

Unfortunately, Maguire struggled against Baylor’s Dylan Kim in the semifinals. On the 18th hole, Maguire experienced heartbreak as her putt was so close, but it stopped right at the hole of the lip, allowing Kim to prevail. Baylor built on the momentum, winning the fifth and final match to proceed to the NCAA Finals. Taking into account that Duke were the defending NCAA Tournament champions, Maguire tried valiantly to provide the program with the prestige of back-to-back championships.

Hailing from Cavan, Ireland, Maguire grew up participating in sports such as soccer and swimming. Joined on the Blue Devils roster by her twin sister Lisa, the two are poised to maintain Duke’s status as a national power in women’s golf. Considering that Stephanie Meadow recently became the first Irish player to qualify for the LPGA Tour, it would come as no surprise is Leona (one of the world’s top ranked amateur golfers) followed in her historic footsteps.

Memorable week for NCAA golf champ Emma Talley culminates with First-Team All-America honors

The Concession Club in Bradenton, Florida served as the backdrop for another exciting chapter in Emma Talley’s promising golf career. As a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide women’s golf program, she captured the NCAA women’s individual golf championship. With the win, Talley became only the fifth player to win the NCAA title and the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

As a side note, the three-time KHSAA state champion gained the title at the Amateur in 2013.
Talley’s win came in dramatic fashion as she had to wait until the 18th hole to clinch victory.

Compounded by a weather delay, she sank an 8-foot birdie putt, beating Arkansas’ Gaby Lopez and Duke’s Leona Maguire by just one stroke. Her final round resulted in a 3-under 69 and an Overall score 3-under 285. Of note, Maguire would go on to capture National Player of the Year Honors later in the week.

In her junior season with the Crimson Tide, enjoyed seven top-10 finishes, complemented by three top-five showings. She co-led all players on the team with 139 pars while ranking second with 35 birdies. During the autumn part of the season, her best finish was third at The Landfall Tradition.

Following her tournament victory, Talley was the recipient of First team All-American Honors by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. It marks the third time that Talley has been bestowed the status of All-American. After her freshman campaign, she was named to the Second-Team, while garnering Honorable Mention as a sophomore.

One of the most heralded recruits to ever tee off for the Crmison Tide, the resident of Princeton, Kentucky earned the SEC Freshman of the Year Award. Recognized by Golfweek as the Number 1 NCAA recuit in 2012, she had qualified for the 2011 and 2012 editions of the US Women’s Open. In 2014, she competed for the US at the Curtis Cup and was the low amateur at the 2014 Ladies British Open.

Dazzling Deena Fagiano a fan favorite with the Chicago Bliss

On a Chicago Bliss team possessing a remarkable amount of talent on both offense and defense, Deena Fagiano is a tireless contributor in search of a third consecutive Legends Cup title. An All-Fantasy selection at the Tight End position, Fagiano is an extra weapon on a high-octane offense that features a superlative running game with Chris’Dell Harris.

In terms of veteran leadership and seniority with the team, Fagiano has much in common with Heather Furr. After the league did not feature any regular season games in 2012, there was a remarkable amount of league-wide turnover among player rosters. Both Fagiano and Furr held the distinction of being members of the Bliss in the pre- and post-2012 eras. From playing alongside the likes of Danielle Moinet (who is known today as WWE Diva Summer Rae) and Nadia Larysa (who would appear in Playboy) in the early years, to the championship era with the likes of Alli Alberts and Kim Perez, Fagiano has seen the franchise experience significant growth.

Postgame jubilation at the Thomas and Mack Center after a road win against the Las Vegas Sin (July 2, 2014 - Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

Postgame jubilation at the Thomas and Mack Center after a road win against the Las Vegas Sin (July 2, 2014 – Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

When TMZ Sports, in conjunction with the LFL, released a list of the 50 Hottest Athletes of All-Time, Fagiano was ranked at number 34, testament to her popularity. Although she may certainly rank number one in the hearts of her fans. As a side note, eight current and former Bliss players were ranked among the Top 50, one of the highest numbers among the league’s numerous franchises.

Like so many of her teammates on the Bliss, Fagiano is an articulate, college-educated individual whose intelligence matches her beauty and athletic ability. When not on the gridiron, her career consists of being a Sales Consultant, working in the medical field.

Custom made Topps football card of Deena Fagiano by Johngy (Image obtained from: http://www.johngysbeat.com/2014/04/celebrity-jersey-cards-168-heather-furr.html)

Custom made Topps football card of Deena Fagiano by Johngy (Image obtained from: http://www.johngysbeat.com/2014/04/celebrity-jersey-cards-168-heather-furr.html)

An alumnus from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Fagiano earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 2011. The collegiate experience would positively shape Fagiano’s strong leadership skills, which have molded her into an integral member of the Bliss roster and a charismatic fan favorite.

Of note, Fagiano’s experience as a member of a Sorority, helped instill the values of teamwork, while her status as a member of the National Communication Honor Society reflected motivation and perseverance. The ability to find the opportunity to donate her time for fund raising activities which benefitted the Children’s Miracle Network spoke volumes about her dedication to the community.

Having captured the imagination of fans, friends and teammates alike, Fagiano’s team-first approach makes the opportunity for others to call her teammate a very special part of the football experience. Although her pair of league championships represent the defining moments in her storied career, the admiration shown towards her as a strong leader and valued friend are just as relevant in her gridiron legacy.

Christen Press among rising stars for USA Soccer at 2015 FIFA Women’s Worlds

As the United States looks to avenge their second place at the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a budding superstar shall be looking to realize such ambitions. Having earned her first cap with the United States in 2013, Christen Press shall be making her World Cup debut this year.

Of note, the year 2015 has served as a coming-out party for Press, placing her name in the American soccer conversation. Recently, Press has been featured in a television advertising campaign for Coppertone, increasing awareness of the upcoming 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Having also been involved with several advertisements and promotional spots for Nike, Press is emerging as an endorsement darling.

PressCoppertoneScreenShot

Quite possibly the most enjoyable moment in her road towards the World Cup occurred in May 2015. Press was featured on The Simpsons television program, along with teammates Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach. In addition, Press has graced the pages of several popular magazines, including the likes of Self, Howler, and Glamour (which also included several of her US soccer teammates).

Having quietly assembled a solid soccer career, the 26 year-old currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League. During her first season with the club in 2014, she established herself as a franchise player. Having led the team with 6 goals, despite only appearing in 12 games, she was rewarded with the Red Stars Golden Boot.

Her finest performance of the season came on a Fourth of July 4 match against the defending champion Portland Thorns. Scoring twice in six minutes, Press’ efforts forced a draw, after being down 2-0 at halftime. In the aftermath of the season, she was recognized as a member of the league’s Second team All-Stars.

ChristenPressCoppertone

Prior to her NWSL heroics, Press gained her first taste of soccer glory when she was bestowed the 2010 Hermann Trophy, recognizing the best female player in NCAA soccer. Having graduated from prestigious Stanford University as the all-time leading scorer, she would earn 2011 Rookie of the Year honors in Women’s Professional Soccer.

Joining the Swedish Damallsvenskan, Press would add other remarkable accomplishments in her promising career. Logging time with both Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC and Tyresö FF, she was the top scorer in the 2013 Damallsvenskan season with 23 goals. Her legacy in the league was secured as she became the first American to claim the league’s Golden Boot award

In the last decade, Press has emerged as one of the finest players developed within the US program. From her roots with the youth national teams, including the under-20 and under-23 teams, she has emerged as a future star on the senior team. Although she attended the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as an alternate for the gold-medal winning US team, her first cap with the team would come on February 9, 2013.

Competing in a friendly against Scotland, Press (who was lined up as a right midfielder) would make an impression as she scored the first two goals of the match, and her career. With a superlative performance complemented by an assist, she was recognized as the Player of the Game. Her second cap also came against Scotland, resulting in her third career goal for a 2-0 victory.

With this accomplishment, Press became the third American woman to score two goals in her US national team debut. The first player to accomplish the feat was Cindy Parlow Cone in 1996, followed by Sherrill Kester in 2000. Press would continue to build on the momentum as she became the first (and only) US woman to record three goals in her first two games. As 2013 progressed, she would score four goals in her first four career matches, becoming the fifth US player to lay claim to such an achievement.

Should Press manage to provide such scoring heroics in a championship effort at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, it will elevate her into the same stratosphere as the likes of Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Abby Wambach. Taking into account that the US are among the favored countries to win the hotly contested event, it may prove to be the most competitive yet.

Lauren Chamberlain breaks softball records for Oklahoma Sooners

In her senior season with the University of Oklahoma, Lauren Chamberlain rewrote the NCAA’s women’s softball record books. With a grand slam factoring in a 6-2 triumph on April 30 over North Texas. Breaking the all-time home run record with 91, Chamberlain hit the historic home run against pitcher Kenzie Grimes. Of note, the previous record (set by UCLA’s Stacey Nuveman) lasted for 13 years.

Chamberlain’s heroics contributed to the Sooners finishing the 2015 regular season with a sterling 45-7 record (going 14-2 in conference play), while clinching their fourth consecutive Big 12 championship. It was part of an impressive season where Oklahoma’s offense scored 487 runs and slugged a total of 107 home runs.

Through the first 53 games of the NCAA season, the 2012 Big 12 Freshman of the Year (and three-time All-America nod) hit an astounding .403, complemented by 20 home runs. By season’s end, she was able to maintain this remarkable display of hitting, finishing her career as the new NCAA record holder in slugging. Setting the new standard of excellence with a slugging mark of .957, it only added to her legacy as one of the greatest NCAA softball players of the decade.

Along with fellow senior Shelby Pendley, both were among the Top 10 finalists for the 2015 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. The only other program to have more than one finalist was the University of Florida Gators. Chamberlain’s 254 career RBI’s place her ninth all-time, while Pendley stands seventh with 269. As a side note, Chamberlain and Pendley became the first teammates in collegiate history to be selected with the first two picks of the NPF Draft.

Statistically. Chamberlain’s 1.32 runs per game and 1.20 walks per game ranked second overall in NCAA play. Her slugging percentage placed her fifth in the nation, while her on-base percentage was good enough for sixth, respectively. In addition, she recorded 66 runs scored, 60 walks and a .602 On-Base Percentage, which paced all players on the Sooners. Her .398 batting average was part of a sparkling statistical campaign. Ranking second to Pendley in most stats, Chamberlain managed a solid season that saw her notch 10 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs, eight stolen bases and a .984 slugging percentage.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama would prove to be the end of Chamberlain’s record-breaking career in a heartbreaking 5-3 loss at the Alabama Super Regionals. Losing to the sixth ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, Chamberlain contributed a pair of home runs. The momentum of the game had changed once Alabama slugger Marisa Runyon hit a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning. Chamberlain’s pair of home runs elevated her to 95 all-time, while her slugging percentage of .960 also stands as an NCAA record. Her 272 career runs scored places her fifth all-time.

Having established herself as a female sporting legend in Oklahoma, Chamberlain was recognized on the House and Senate floors at the State Capitol. One of the most accomplished college softball players ever, this home run queen is destined the one day don the United States national team jersey, extending her proud career and allowing a larger fan base to appreciate her remarkable athletic gifts.