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Ellertson Adds Youth to US Women's Soccer Team

The United States Women's soccer team is seeking to capture its first World Cup title since 1999. While a handful of veterans remain from the last championship squad, winning the World Cup in China rests with the talents of new players. VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on one of the newest additions, U.S. defender Tina Ellertson.

The journey to the U.S. women's world cup team was not easy for Tina Ellertson. Before she married last year, she was Tina Frimpong, the daughter of a Ghanaian father and Nigerian mother. Her parents immigrated to the United States to attend college at Southern Oregon, where they met.

Ellertson's family has always enjoyed sports, and Tina says her father got her started playing soccer.

"My dad has a huge passion for it. He has coached ever since I was little. So he kind of kept us into it. My brother played, and I watched my brother play. It really got me and my (twin) sister into it when we first started. I played basketball. I ran track. I did volleyball. But soccer, me and my sister just excelled in it. And we had fun with it. It just kind of stuck," she said.

Ellertson became the top scorer at the University of Washington. In her junior year, she was asked to play for Ghana in the last Women's World Cup in 2003. With her studies and a young daughter, Ellertson had a tough decision.

"I had a four-year-old at the time. And so I thought I could not really juggle that. So I decided not to. And thank goodness I did," she said.

By declining to play for Ghana, Ellertson kept her path clear to be a part of the U.S. team. She was soon invited to a few U.S. under-age-21 camps by then-coach Greg Ryan. She struggled to make the starting lineup before Ryan switched her to defense.

Now at age 25, Ellertson is again playing for Ryan as he leads the senior U.S. women's national team.

As one of the new players on the top-ranked U.S. squad, Ellertson looks to the veteran members for inspiration, and in particular, one of the all-time best players in the world.

"Kristine Lilly brings it every day. Just that passion, that fire, and the love for the game. And I think that is something I have really learned from her. Watching her dedication and her focus. And every training [session] is amazing," she said.

Ellertson thrives in one-on-one situations and has unmatched speed. Her athleticism could be the U.S. answer to containing dangerous forwards in the World Cup, which will be staged in five Chinese from September 10 through the 30.