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Hopes burn bright for Boxx, U.S. team


ATHENS - With any luck, there won't be any fires or cats to get out of trees or any other sort of emergency this morning in San Jose, Calif.

That way, the men and women at Willow Glen Fire Station No. 6 will be free to tune into the gold-medal women's soccer match between the United States and Brazil. They do, after all, have a direct connection to the game.

One of their own, 30-year-old firefighter and paramedic Gillian Boxx, is here in Greece - not as an athlete, but as a spectator.

Boxx will be at Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens today, where she will be one of the most attentive, supportive spectators in the crowd. She has come to see her younger sister, U.S. defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx, try to duplicate in soccer what she accomplished in softball - win an Olympic gold medal.

"I'm having a better time watching my sister play than when I was in there playing," Gillian Boxx said. "The biggest reason is it's not as stressful for me, but at the same time I get this pit in my stomach every time she's out there.

"When she makes a good play, I'm right there - the biggest yeller, the biggest supporter. And when somebody fouls her, I'm ready to be out there because she's still my baby sister."

The Boxx sisters - Shannon is four years younger - have always been involved in sports. Their mother, a retired administrator for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, encouraged them.

"We both grew up playing sports from a very early age, probably age 5," Gillian Boxx said. "I think I was annoying my mom enough that she decided to get me into sports. We both kind of gravitated to softball and soccer."

Shannon Boxx, 26, was a latecomer to the national soccer team. She won an NCAA championship with Notre Dame in 1995, but it was not until last September that she made her national-team debut. She has been a starter ever since. Even though she is primarily a defensive player, she has scored 11 goals in 31 games.

Having won a bronze medal at the Women's World Cup last year, she is poised to possibly add a second gold medal to the family haul.

Gillian Boxx has told her to savor the Olympic experience.

"I think that the best advice I've given her is, 'Have fun. Have fun out there. Enjoy yourself,' " she said. "I think she has truly taken it to heart. None of this is worth anything if you're not having fun. I believe she's on a very skilled team, but also a team that enjoys playing together and having a good time. You can see it in the way they play."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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