Ron Agostini

Modesto soccer icon Venturini-Hoch now a soccer mom

World Cup star Tisha Venturini Hoch on left, instructs soccer players during the youth soccer clinic held at Bailey Road Soccer Park in Cornelius, N.C., on June 23, 2015.
World Cup star Tisha Venturini Hoch on left, instructs soccer players during the youth soccer clinic held at Bailey Road Soccer Park in Cornelius, N.C., on June 23, 2015.

Tisha Venturini-Hoch is a soccer mom. Not exactly a shock, right?

Wasn’t she born for that? Modesto’s soccer queen, the girl from Grace Davis High who vaulted to the top of her sport, joins husband Casey as they raise Cooper, 10, and Sadie, 8, in a nonstop cycle.

Baseball. Basketball. Football. And yes, soccer.

“Had a baseball game this morning. Just finished,” said Hoch, 42, as she motored back home in Newport Beach. “The day starts early around here.”

The daily schedule even forced the family to watch last Sunday’s Women’s World Cup championship on replay. But they blinked in disbelief over that stunning four-goal rush, that 16-minute lightning strike that carried the Americans to a 5-2 win over Japan.

“Carli Lloyd’s shot was unbelievable,” Hoch said. “I tried to chip the goalie, too, but always from 20 yards or so, not from 50!”

Friday marked the 16th anniversary of the epic day in the Rose Bowl when Team USA defeated China while Brandi Chastain showed off the most famous sports bra in sports history. Hoch, a member of that iconic team, celebrated the World Cup title as the confetti rained on her and her teammates like a summer shower.

Sixteen years later to the day, the 2015 World Cup champions became the first female team to be honored with a ticker-tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes in Manhattan. That’s all parts progress, symmetry and a reality impossible to argue – women’s sports is a tidal wave growing in power.

The title game last week was the most-watched televised soccer game in the nation’s history – an average of 25.4 million – more than Game 7 of the 2014 World Series and Game 6 of this year’s NBA Finals.

Hoch and her friends were there when that wave was just a ripple. She pushed it forward in a major way with four NCAA titles at North Carolina, including the 1994 Hermann Trophy – her sport’s Heisman – the 1996 Olympic gold medal and the audacious run in ’99.

She views the latest World Cup champions as an affirmation of the course set for them long before. The 2015ers, if not necessarily better than the ’99ers, were without question deeper and, by tournament’s end, a force that could not be stopped.

“I was thinking, ‘This cannot be real,’ when they scored all those goals,” Hoch said. “You could just tell they were not going to lose. They were playing out of their minds. This year’s team slapped everyone in the face and said, ‘Here we are.’”

Soccer in this country, after a long and difficult slog, has earned its place in the sports landscape. Check out Major League Soccer and its hot-to-the-touch fan bases. The women’s game lags behind, of course, as fans and advertisers remain reluctant to support the game. The National Women’s Soccer League, the third attempt to establish women’s pro soccer in this country, is a work in progress.

The women need energy from upstairs. Unfortunately, we’re thinking about FIFA, soccer’s international controlling body. It might be more sexist than corrupt, and we’re still learning about the wall-to-wall slime.

Forcing the women to play on synthetic turf and housing rivals in the same hotel, which happened in Canada, were slights that never would be tolerated by the men. The awards last week were escorted onto the field by models in black dresses and heels. Team USA received $2 million last week for its victory, a pittance compared to the $35 million Germany’s men collected in Brazil last summer.

Yes, the economics do not yet add up for the women. But they should. Carli Lloyd, in style and substance, belongs on the same stage as Madison Bumgarner, Steph Curry, Tom Brady, Jordan Spieth and the rest of today’s high-impact stars.

Another thing: Women’s soccer plays the game right. They embellish contact but almost never flop. They’ll bleed, as we saw, before they’ll take a dive. Contrast that to the childish and almost comical deportment by the men.

“If people and sponsors don’t jump on board now, they’re crazy,” Hoch said. “The game now is so much more popular than it was in 1999. It’s slowly going in the right direction, for sure.”

Hoch has joined former North Carolina teammates Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Angela Kelly at their TeamFirst Soccer Academy camps across the country. They’ve never lost their passion, and why would they? It’s what made them great.

“I’m happy to still be a part of it, and I’m still grateful to have been a part of something special. I had a great run,” Hoch said. “I still like being a coach. Someday, I’ll just be a spectator.”

Tisha? Spectator? Not a chance.

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