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Christie Rampone returns from maternity leave to lead U.S. soccer team over China
2006-01-23 00:57:06 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

GUANGZHOU, Jan. 23(AP) -- Defender Christie Rampone returned from maternity leave to help the U.S. women defend their title at the Four Nations tournament in China over the weekend.

After a year away and less than four months after giving birth to a daughter, Rampone was rock solid in left back as the U.S. downed China 2-0 on Sunday to again finish undefeated in the biennial tournament.

Along with the title, the U.S. also swept the best performer awards, with Greg Ryan claiming best coach, Kristine Lilly best player and top scorer, and Hope Solo best goalkeeper.

"The mentality of this team is to look at any situation like this and just step out with a determination to win the day, and that's what they did," Ryan said. "I could see it in their faces and eyes before the game started, there was that additional focus and determination to win this game."

Playing in her record 302nd international match, Lilly scored first from the penalty spot after Norwegian referee Ann Helene Ostervold ruled Abby Wambach had been held and pulled by the Chinese defense.

In the 41st minute, Lilly collected a chip from Christie Welsh, beat a Chinese defender and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Han Wenxia.

"Our goal is always to win, not only to (win) this tournament, but every game, and the team stepped up," Lilly said.

The win marked the fourth time the U.S. has won the tournament in five attempts. It was only the fourth American victory in the 12 times the rivals have met on Chinese soil.

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