WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- A West Des Moines woman has a special connection to USA's World Cup team.
Whitney Lewis says a hot day on the soccer field is nothing compared to what the USA women’s soccer team is experiencing.
“You’re playing in front of like 35,000 people away from home in France. Not only do you have to eat and hydrate, but you have to be so mentally focused because you’re on the biggest stage in the world," Lewis said.
Lewis was an All-American soccer player at UCLA and was coached by Jill Ellis, the current coach of the U.S. Women's National Team. She played professionally for Ajax in the Netherlands and represented the U.S. at the youth level.
“I know her very well and I am familiar with a bunch of the players who play or who have come through the system," Lewis said.
Lewis says Ellis helped pave the way for women in the sport.
“She used her knowledge plus being a female to really rise to the top and do a good job," Lewis said.
Lewis says being at the top takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
“Sacrifice family, sacrifice having kids and all of that stuff, so I am rooting for those girls all the way. It takes a lot to be at that level," Lewis said.
Lewis says just like Ellis, she hopes to inspire the next generation of women soccer players.
“If I can make it from West Des Moines, Iowa, and small town Iowa and make it to a big stage, so can you -- so for the little girls here,” Lewis said.
Lewis helped lead West Des Moines Valley to four consecutive state championships and was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa.