SAN JOSE, Calif. (Aug. 11) -- Tisha Venturini-Hoch and Kelly Lindsey, two integral parts of San Jose's 2001 championship team, hung up their cleats Sunday after the CyberRays' 1-0 loss to Boston.
The loss ended the CyberRays' season, but the result of the game was truly meaningless after their previous game, a 1-1 tie with Atlanta on Aug. 6, eliminated them from playoff contention.
The day was about Tish and Boof.
"The game obviously was of secondary importance to our players retiring," San Jose coach Ian Sawyers said. "I thought the game itself was a little slow, as you'd expect when there's nothing at stake. But it was important for us to get a look at some players who are on the bubble. It's three games that we played against Boston when we could've scored a lot of goals and haven't really succeeded at it. But we just have to put that in the back pocket and think about Tish and Kelly Lindsey right now."
Venturini-Hoch, 30, is younger than Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and other long-time members of the U.S. national team but becomes the first member of the post-Michelle Akers class to retire. Indeed, Venturini-Hoch is the second WUSA Founding Player to retire after Akers, though the latter never played in the league.
The midfielder leaves the playing field to spend more time with her husband, Casey Hoch, and possibly start
Her immediate future includes working for FIFA publicizing the upcoming Women's World Cup and perhaps doing some television work during the World Cup.
"Physically, I probably could play more, but I feel ready," Venturini-Hoch said. "I feel emotionally and a little bit physically ready. If I'm going to have kids, now's a good time to start, and just try to get involved in something else. I know I'm not going to be playing forever, and I feel like this is a good time for me to go out."
Before Sawyers got to coach Venturini-Hoch, he watched her play alongside his wife, Julie Foudy, on the national team.
"It's bittersweet," he said. "You lose one of the greatest people you've been around. My wife and I have been around her so long now, she's almost like family. And then when you have a player who's been decorated that much in her career, to lose that, it's very sad that we're going to lose a player of that stature."
"I'm happy for her," Foudy said, "because this is something she definitely wants -- time with her husband, to relax a little bit. But I'm sad we're going to lose a player like her, not only as a soccer player but as a person. She's everything that's good about this game. She's giving. She's just an incredible teammate and incredible person. I'm lucky that I got the chance to play alongside her."
"It's extremely difficult," San Jose's Brandi Chastain said. "You don't replace people like Tisha Venturini. You only hope you can conjure up the type of character and the type of integrity that they have. What you do is you use them as motivation. 'Tish would've worked hard. She would've done this.' I think that's how you get by. You carry her spirit and you wear her on your jersey."
The CyberRays presented rocking chairs to both Venturini-Hoch and Lindsey in a half-hour post-game retirement ceremony. CyberRay Ann Cook had also previously announced her retirement to attend graduate school. But she did not want to be involved in the ceremony because she isn't completely sure she's done playing and because she didn't want to take any of the limelight away from Venturini-Hoch and Lindsey.
Past and present teammates spoke during the ceremony.
Boston's Kate Sobrero had a few things to say about Lindsey, her former Notre Dame teammate, whose nickname, "Boof," derives from her hairstyle.
"The first thing I thought when I saw her was, God, that girl has a lot of hair," Sobrero said. "But as I got to know her I learned a couple of things: One, her hair can always get bigger. I also learned some other things. I was so lucky to live with her. I only got to live with her for one year, and I wish it was more, because she inspired me to always work harder and always be a better player."
Lindsey should have a few more years of playing left, but injuries have taken their toll on the 23-year-old. Various knee surgeries and injuries, including an injury this season, have forced Lindsey from the field.
She will be close to the field, though, as an assistant coach at the University of Colorado next fall.
"She's been my best friend," said San Jose and former Irish teammate LaKeysia Beene, who's played the last seven years with Lindsey. "I might be a little lost, personally, without her. She's always been the heart of every team I've ever been on. Filling that void on our team's going to be difficult.
"It's tough when you see her retire due to physical things, like her knees and not being able to handle the pain anymore. Someone like that should be playing for seven, eight years more, because she has the ability to."
Lindsey was the more outwardly emotional of the two retirees, tearing up in the ceremony and in the post-game interviews.
"I'm going to miss this place," she said. "I had a lot of fun here. Just running around out there I could just tell the body was just done, even today. I tried to get up for this game, but the body couldn't get up like it used to. It was a fitting end that way. In my mind at least I know that I have to retire."