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She quits national team, stuns soccer world

PROVO, Utah — A year ago, her name was mentioned in the same breath as renowned U.S. professional soccer player Mia Hamm. Her coach on the U.S. women's soccer team told The San Diego Tribune that she was the "most impactful player" in women's college soccer, adding "That's about as good a compliment as you'll get from me without calling her the next Michael Jordan."

That was before she stunned the soccer world earlier this year by quitting the national team — where she debuted when she was only 16 years old. Aleisha Cramer Rose, now 20, is still midfielder/defender for BYU's soccer team, but she is no longer competing in top-level soccer where she was touted for the 2003 World Cup and 2004 Olympic teams. There will be no more soccer tournaments in China, Italy and Australia. There will be no potential gold medal. There will be no playing in the WUSA, the world's premier women's professional soccer league.

Now she's focusing on her junior year at BYU, where she is studying marriage, family and human development. She's also focusing in her new husband, Chris Rose, whom she married July 27, 2002, in the Denver Colorado Temple. And she hopes to one day focus on a family.

Why the sudden shift from Olympic focus to family focus? Playing on Sundays, she told the Church News in her apartment in Provo, Utah, where she and Chris are members of the BYU 141st Ward, BYU 22th Stake. "That's the only thing that's stopping me from going back. There are games on Sundays, and I won't play on Sunday, no matter what. Just for me, I don't think it's right. That's what led me to this change in lifestyle."

A change in lifestyle is putting is mildly. She took her first un-soccer-related vacation this year with her husband's family to Bear Lake, Idaho. Since beginning soccer when she was 6 years old in Denver, Colo., she has centered her life in sports. Every family vacation with her parents, Dan and Betty Cramer, was centered on a soccer tournament. By the time she was playing for Green Mountain High School in Denver, she was also playing for the U-16 (under 16 years old) and U-21 national team. At age 16, she played for the U.S. women's national soccer team and even started a few games. In 1999, she was named national high school player-of-the-year .

Upon high school graduation, she was recruited by every major college soccer team in the nation, including powerhouses North Carolina, Portland and Santa Clara. She had no plans to play at BYU, but after a recruiting trip, "I thought, 'I have to go here.' " While at BYU, she has been a two-year All-American. At 5-foot-10-inches, the slim redhead was touted by Soccer America magazine as "blessed with superior vision, instincts, touch and intelligence."

In fact, an Oct. 23, 2002, Soccer America article on her departure from international competition called it "soccer's loss."

But, to Aleisha, her gain. However, the change was a surprise to her, as well. While at the Four-Nations exhibition tournament in China last January, she was sitting in her hotel room one night. "All of a sudden, I had this feeling I shouldn't be on the national team anymore."

She told Soccer America: "It was such a strong feeling like I'd never had before. I never knew prayers could be answered like that."

That didn't make it easy, but 10 months later, she's quick to shake her head "No' when asked if she's had any regrets. "If I had to do it over again, I'd make the right decision. But when you make the right decisions it's still going to be hard. I was going to all these cool countries and now it's like I'm not going to do that anymore.

"I'm sure there are those people who says, 'She's crazy. How could she give up an opportunity like that?' But I actually haven't had negative responses from people. They've been really good to me, the national coach [April Heinrichs] and team. They've been really nice."

Her decision has also given her opportunities, the soft-spoken young woman continued, in sharing the gospel when people ask why she quit the national team. "There are things I believe in, and if I'm going to say I'm LDS, I'm going to try to practice what we preach.

"Before, all my aspirations were being on the national team and being an example to all the people around me. It changed from being an example to all the people around me to being an example to my family."

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