The grin still spreads from ear to ear on the face of Scottsburg native and Halifax County High School soccer standout and Christopher Newport University graduate Camey Reese weeks after she attended the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

The competition took place between June 7 and July 7, with 52 matches staged in nine cities in France.

The United States entered the competition as defending champions after winning the 2015 edition in Canada and successfully defended their title with a 2–0 victory over the Netherlands in the final.

In doing so, the United States secured their record fourth title and became the second nation, after Germany, to have successfully retained the title.

A total of 24 teams qualified for the final tournament.

The AFC qualified five teams, including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand, the CAF qualified three teams, including Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa, and CONCACAF qualified three teams, including Canada, Jamaica and the United States.

CONMEBOL qualified three teams, including Argentina, Brazil and Chile, and OFC qualified one team, New Zealand.

The UEFA qualified nine teams, including England, host France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Scotland.

This American team was special in her mind, so Reese made arrangements to attend the World Cup.

“I’m not saying the other teams were bad, but this one was special, and I wanted to go,” said Reese. “I texted a group of friends, we bought tickets, and we bought a hotel air B&B in France, and we were there.

“It was kind of a bucket list item.”

The United States outscored its opponents 26-3 in seven matches at the World Cup, beginning with a 13-0 win over Thailand in its opening match.

A 3-0 win over Chile and a 2-0 win over Sweden gave the United States a 3-0 record in group play, and the Americans recorded a 2-1 win over Spain in the Round of 16.

The United States edged host France 2-1 in the quarterfinals, defeated England by a similar 2-1 margin in the semifinals and shut out the Netherlands 2-0 for the World Cup title.

Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan led the United States with six goals apiece during the World Cup, Rose Lavelle and Carli Lloyd had three goals apiece, and Lindsey Horan and Sam Mewis recorded two goals apiece.

Christen Press, Mallory Pugh and Julie Ertz recorded one goal apiece for the United States.

Mewis, Morgan and Rapinoe each had three assists to lead the United States, Tierna Davidson, Horan and Kelley O’Hara each recorded two assists, and Pugh, Crystal Dunn, Tobin Heath and Christen Press each logged an assist.

Reese traveled with friend Kayla Allen to the World Cup, and the pair had several chance encounters with American World Cup idols of the past, including Mia Hamm, Hope Solo, Kristine Lilly and Carli Lloyd.

Reese admitted to being slightly “tongue-tied” when meeting her soccer heroes.

“It was a lot of difficulty talking to them, and I couldn’t say much,” recalled Reese. “Carli Lloyd asked if I was okay, it was just a chance meeting.”

Reese and her friends stayed 30 minutes outside of Lyon and had to catch either the metro or the tram to the matches.

American fans far outnumbered those of other countries at the World Cup, according to Reese.

Reese and Allen also met former U.S. soccer star Kristine Lilly at the FIFA Fan Experience, where the 1999 and 1995 French World Cup teams reunited for matches against other countries.

“They haven’t lost it at all, their skills are definitely still there,” recalled Reese of the former American World Cup teams.

“You can tell they still had the same camaraderie and friendship they had when they were playing. They’ve been playing together since they were 19-20 years old, so it’s a life-long passion for them.”

Reese’s takeaway from the World Cup was the amount of attention the United States team has garnered for woman’s soccer in general.

“It was the most-watched soccer game in the United States the past few years, outdrawing the World Cup men’s final,” explained Reese.

Reese and Allen also noted the impact the team made off the field in advocating for equal pay for women professional soccer players.

“The impact of the players off the field really impacted me and my friend,” said Reese. “We tried to make a difference and carry it forward. It was really eye-opening.”

Reese said she has several bucket list items remaining on her agenda, one of which is to swim with the dolphins.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.