AUCKLAND, New Zealand — United States women’s national soccer team forward Sophia Smith said that everything she and defender Naomi Girma will do at this World Cup will be in memory of former Stanford teammate Katie Meyer.

Meyer, who along with Smith and Girma, was part of Stanford University’s national-championship-winning soccer team in 2019, died by suicide in March 2022.

The subsequent impact on her family, as well as the Stanford community, has been devastating and far-reaching. Meyer’s parents, Steve and Gina, are attempting to get colleges to adopt a policy called “Katie’s Save” where college students can opt for a trusted adult ‘Designated Advocate’ to receive notice and provide support when they need it the most.

With Girma and Smith now set to represent the U.S. at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, they have taken steps to honor Meyer’s memory. On Tuesday, Girma penned an emotional tribute to Meyer on The Players Tribune, titled “This is For Katie”, in which she said Meyer “was a true friend in every sense of the word.”

Girma also detailed how she, Smith, Sofia Huerta and other USWNT teammates have partnered with Common Goal to launch a mental health initiative during this World Cup that they hope will save lives. This will be done through a three-part feature series and multiple public service announcements aired throughout the tournament.

Talking to reporters on Wednesday, Smith admitted that the passing of Meyer is something with which she still grapples.

“Anytime I talk about Katie, it’s obviously emotional, and then just with everything coming out today, it kind of brings all those feelings back to the surface,” she said. “But I feel like I’m in a place where I can talk about it and talk about Katie in a really positive light and it brings me more happiness.

“But obviously, yeah, anytime it’s all over social media, it’s tough to see, and it kind of just reminds you. But I think what we put out and the Players Tribune by Naomi, it was really cool and really good to read and everything that we do is now for Katie, so it means a lot. But yeah, obviously it’s a tough thing to talk about.”

Smith also detailed steps she’s taken to manage her mental health during a tournament in which the world’s eyes will be on the U.S. as it attempts to win its third consecutive World Cup.

“I think a big thing is leaning on your teammates and knowing that we’re all in this together, whatever those emotions may be,” she said.

“Everyone’s probably felt it at some time. For me, deleting Twitter, the best thing I’ve ever done. No idea what’s happening. But I think just kind of balancing; we did all these shoots and partnerships and stuff months ago and it’s all coming out now and it’s a lot, and it’s like something new every day. So trying to just push that aside and focus on what we are here to do and that’s to play soccer in one World Cup and just finding that balance I think is super important.”

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