Soccer player making run to return to national spotlight

National team: Stephanie Cox of Gig Harbor returning to sport after birth of her first child

of the GatewayDecember 4, 2013 

Stephanie Cox will be in the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team training camp this month.

Cox is back in action after the birth of her first child, Kaylee. Originally from Elk Grove, Calif., she moved to Gig Harbor with her husband in 2008. Since then, she’s made her home here and trained locally.

“It feels a lot like home,” she said of Gig Harbor. “I’m proud to show people around.”

Cox has been working to get her agility and speed back, practicing with a boys team in Puyallup as well as training at the YMCA and at parks in town.

Despite all the workouts, nothing is quite like lacing up her cleats and playing in a game.

“Nothing can really replicate a soccer game,” she said.

Cox hopes the winter camp will be a time to re-establish herself in the player pool. She still has a desire to play at the highest level.

Once she was cut from the 2012 Olympic team, which eventually won the gold medal in London, the time seemed right to start a family, Cox said. Kaylee was born in April.

With the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada approaching, Cox, a defender, is making a run at a steady roster spot. Head coach Tom Sermanni is mixing up the back line, Cox said, and she wants to show what she can do on the field.

With a closed-door scrimmage against Australia and a cap against Brazil in a friendly, Cox started on the comeback trail.

Although Cox said she needs to recover from her time away, her innate sense of the game hasn’t dropped off.

“When I got back out there, it didn’t seem like any time at all,” she said. “It still feels natural.”

Cox started to develop her game when she was young.

“I was 5 and just wanted to play with my friends,” she said.

She comes from a soccer family — her mother played the sport indoors. Then came the Olympic Development Program, followed by the under-14 national team, the U-17 national team, and the U-19 national team, which took third at a youth World Cup in Thailand.

Cox made the full national team in 2005 and earning her first international action as a substitute against Denmark in the annual Algarve Cup in Portugal.

Cox also has played professionally in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer league, as well as semi-professionally.

Professional soccer took her to Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle. The first step to build her career back up was when she played this summer for the Seattle Reign.

Cox has adopted the Northwest as home. She played at the University of Portland, where she met her husband, Brian. After college, the couple moved to Gig Harbor. That makes playing in Seattle special; it’s been a nice commute to work, she said.

The Seattle Reign will kick off its second season next spring. Cox hopes locals will drive north to Tukwila to catch them in action.

Meanwhile, there have been changes in the national team. Cox played for several coaches, and a new coach was named last year following the departure of Pia Sundhage. Sermanni, who is from Australia, is now building his legacy with the team.

So far, Cox said it’s been an enjoyable, low-stress environment. Playing on the national level and trying to make a roster while competing with some of the best in the world is stressful enough, she said.

In the long run, Cox knows soccer isn’t everything.

“I have a full life outside of that,” she said.

Cox will be at the national team’s winter camp from Dec. 3-15 in Carson, Calif. The Seattle Reign season will start in April in Tukwila. Tickets are available at www.seattlereignfc.com.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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