Sophia Smith pretended to zip her lips closed as she celebrated her second goal against Vietnam during the United States’ opening match at the Women’s World Cup. It was a tribute to former Stanford teammate Katie Meyer, who died by suicide last year.
Smith and teammate Naomi Girma decided on the tribute for Meyer, the goalkeeper star of Stanford’s 2019 NCAA championship. She stopped two penalty shots in the title game. An ebullient California girl known for her animated celebrations, Meyer made the gesture after her first penalty save as a way to silence anyone who doubted Stanford.
Girma was one of Meyer’s best friends. She penned a tribute to Meyer published by The Players’ Tribune at the start of the World Cup.
“Na (Naomi) and I talked about it before the game, and we were like ‘What can we do for Katie?’” Smith said. “And it was pretty iconic: what she did in the College Cup. We just wanted to honor her in every way. So that was for Katie.”
Girma said the gesture was Meyer’s “go-to,” and she and her teammates have made a point to publicly discuss mental health since Meyer’s death.
“We see this as an opportunity to shed light on a lot of things that are important to us,” Girma said. “I think that’s been something that’s been at the core of this team for so long, and for us to come in now and carry on that legacy is something that’s really important to us.”
Meyer’s family has said the 21-year-old was distressed about a disciplinary email she received from the school before her death. They filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university last November.
The U.S. team won the its first match at the World Cup, 3-0. Smith finished with a pair of goals.
Up next for the Americans is a game against The Netherlands — the team the U.S. defeated in the 2019 World Cup Final — in Wellington on Thursday.
More AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup