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How 2 young Utahns are breaking barriers in soccer

Members of the United States deaf national team Sophie Post and Taegan Frandsen are honored at halftime of an international friendly match between the United States and Colombia at America First Field on Oct. 26, 2023, in Sandy, Utah.

Two 20-year-old Utahns will be at the center of soccer history Saturday in Colorado.

Just hours before the U.S. women’s national soccer team takes the field against South Korea, Taegan Frandsen of Centerville, Utah, and Sophie Post of Murray, Utah, will suit up for the U.S. deaf women’s national soccer team and take part in a historic soccer doubleheader.

Saturday will be the deaf national team’s first-ever match on U.S. soil and their first televised U.S. Soccer-controlled match. It will also be the first time an extended national team has ever played in a doubleheader with a senior national team, per U.S. Soccer.

“I think so many people need to be exposed to what the deaf team can do because we are really — I might be a little selfish — but we are really fun to watch,” Frandsen told the Deseret News. “The things that we do and the things we can achieve with each other, it’s just so crazy considering the fact that most of us can’t hear, like all of us can’t hear on the field.”

While both Frandsen and Post grew up wearing hearing aids, they — and all of their teammates — will play without them in Saturday’s match. That’s one of the team’s two requirements. Players must also have “hearing loss of at least 55DB in their ‘better ear’” to be eligible, according to U.S. Soccer.

Taegan Frandsen

Frandsen, a zoology major at Weber State, was born with an enlarged vestibular aqueduct, which is the narrow canal that runs from the inner ear to the skull. Because her vestibular aqueduct is too big, the fluid in her ear fluctuates, which causes the hearing loss, Frandsen explained.

The former Viewmont High goalkeeper has had hearing aids since she was only 3 months old and underwent a lot of speech therapy.

Growing up with hearing loss wasn’t easy for Frandsen in the classroom or on the soccer pitch, she said.

“Not only is it tiring to go and be in school like as a hearing person, (but) as a deaf person, I have to work 10 times harder because I can’t hear,” she said. “Because I can’t rely on my hearing 100%, I rely on a lot of lip reading, and lip reading takes a lot of mental effort because you’re like having to constantly focus.”

She struggles to hear in loud crowds, and when it comes to soccer practice, she called the wind her kryptonite.

“All I hear is like the wind in my hearing aids,” she said. “There’ll be times where I like sit with my hands holding my hearing aids so it blocks out the wind so I can hear my coaches.”

Taegan Frandsen of Centerville, Utah, is a goalkeeper for the U.S. deaf women’s national soccer team. | Joy Marshall, U.S. Soccer
Taegan Frandsen of Centerville, Utah, is a goalkeeper for the U.S. deaf women’s national soccer team. | Joy Marshall, U.S. Soccer

But suffering in hundreds of windy practices has paid off for Frandsen.

She has had the opportunity to represent her country at both the 2022 Deaflympics in Brazil and the 2023 DIFA World Deaf Football Championships in Turkey, where she won the golden glove award for best goalkeeper of the tournament. Frandsen, Post and their teammates won both tournaments.

The opportunity to represent her country is nearly indescribable for Frandsen.

“It was awesome,” she said. “I have tried to explain this to like, my friends and family before in words, and it definitely is not something easily described in words — the experience that I had and the feelings that I had.”

Sophie Post

Life for Post, who was born with reverse slope hearing, hasn’t been easy either. She has experienced a lack of accommodations in school and in soccer.

Her hearing loss prevents her from hearing the instructions her coaches yell from the sideline, which she considers one of the biggest struggles she’s faced in regards to the sport.

“I actually had a coach tell me one time that I wouldn’t be able to play on the next level of the team unless I could like figure out how to hear people, essentially,” she said.

Post now has two gold medals to her name and even scored a goal in last year’s world championship. This summer she is playing for a semiprofessional team in Washington with hopes of playing collegiately in the future and later enrolling in law school.

Sophie Post of Murray, Utah, is part of the U.S. deaf women’s national soccer team. | Joy Marshall, U.S. Soccer
Sophie Post of Murray, Utah, is part of the U.S. deaf women’s national soccer team. | Joy Marshall, U.S. Soccer

Prior to playing for the deaf national team, Post had never played on a deaf or hard of hearing team. She also wasn’t familiar with ASL, which the national deaf team primarily uses to communicate, until she attended her first team camp.

But she has since found a sense of community within the team and through her friendship with Frandsen, who she introduced to the national team when they were club teammates.

“Just being on the team, I have such a bigger community than I’ve ever had, being with so many individuals that are all like me,” she said. “It’s been great being able to play with Taegan and seeing how we played together so young, and then we just played in Malaysia together, and we played in Brazil together and winning two gold medals together is awesome.”

Post said that suiting up for the national team feels like a dream.

“It never feels real, even when it happens,” she said. “Knowing that we’re playing for something so much bigger than us is really insane, and it’s crazy to think out of everybody in our country, that we’re the ones representing for the deaf and hard of hearing individual soccer players.”

In October, both Frandsen and Post were honored at the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s game in Sandy, Utah, for their World Championship title.

The pair said they were grateful for the recognition that moment gave the deaf national team.

“Our team, their team, everyone’s representing the same thing,” Post said. “It’s just a really cool experience to see their team doing what they do but also the deaf team being included because we are part of the national teams and so it’s nice to like get that recognition on the field.”

Soccer fans can tune in to watch Post and Frandsen make soccer history on Saturday at noon MDT on truTV and Max.

USWNT in action this week

Saturday will also be the senior U.S. women’s national team’s first match under new head coach Emma Hayes.

Hayes has less than two months left to assemble an 18-player roster that can redeem the U.S. at this summer’s Olympics after the team made its earliest World Cup exit in team history last August.

She has been working behind the scenes with interim head coach Twila Kilgore since her hiring in November, and her national team rosters so far can be summed up with one word: youthful.

Hayes, who is coming off her fifth consecutive Women’s Super League title with Chelsea, has expanded the team’s player pool with several young players as she tries to find the best combination of players to win gold for the U.S. at the Paris Olympics.

Saturday’s match against Korea will give fans a glimpse of what to expect at the Olympics.