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When UCF women's soccer head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak was watching the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal game between the United States and Germany at Lazy Moon Tuesday night, she was a fan watching one of her former players, Lena Petermann, who plays for Germany.

But in the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup in Sweden, she was a player competing for the United States. Fresh off of her 18th birthday, she stood in the starting lineup with Mia Hamm, battling in a tight matchup against the People's Republic of China.

"It was something I always aspired to do and be, so to finally get that opportunity at such a young age was pretty exciting," Roberts Sahaydak said. "It's everything, it's kind of nerve-wracking [and] it's unbelievable in a way. I look back, and I'm really blessed. I'm really thankful."

During that bronze-medal finish in '95, she had no idea how successful her soccer career was going to be.

The next year she was standing on a podium in Athens, Georgia, with an Olympic gold medal hanging around her neck — the inaugural year of women's soccer at the Olympics.

"It is something that I actually dreamed about for a long time because I remember watching the Olympics when I was younger and really being inspired by some of the women Olympians," Roberts Sahaydak said.

In 1999, she added another gold medal to her name as the United States won its second World Cup title in program history. That remains the last time the United States won a gold medal at the World Cup.

"I was watching [the '99 game] last night, and I was just like, 'I can't believe I was there.' It just really flabbergasts me to watch it and be like, 'Oh my god, there I am.' It's just so weird," she said. "The celebration at the end was just like a relief because you've been working and training together, and you just love your teammates so much and you want it so badly.

"You just want to cry out of pure happiness and joy."

And Roberts Sahaydak offers inspiration to women far beyond the UCF soccer field. U.S. World Cup member Sydney Leroux spoke of her influence in a USA Today video about the '99 World Cup winners.

"They were just such a strong group of women, and that was a really cool thing for a little girl to look up to. That's kind of who we are now," the fellow Olympic gold medalist said in the video.

Roberts Sahaydak got her start with the U.S. Women's National Team in 1994, when she was 16 years old. She scored seven goals for the team and appeared in 110 matches, the 29th most in team history.

"At a young age, I was influenced by some phenomenal teammates and women that have been pioneers in our sport," she said. "They taught me about leadership and how to be selfless and how to be a team and win at the highest level, how you can compete and still be friends and try to take each other's jobs, but you're doing it for the team."

Twelve years removed from her third and final World Cup appearance in 2003, Roberts Sahaydak finds herself a long way from her playing days, remaining mostly on the sideline as she hands down life lessons as a coach.

"I feel like, 'I'm a mom now. I'm a fan,'" she said. "I just cannot see myself really as a professional athlete. It just seems out there for me. So it's hard for me to grasp sometimes."

She may not be able to imagine herself as a former pro, but she has two heavy reminders: gold medals.

They're not displayed in extravagant cases or placarded to the wall for only her family's eyes to catch a glimpse. They're not polished daily, even though fingerprints are regularly smudged on them like a glass mirror. They are kept in sunglass cases, ready to be snagged as she walks out the door.

She doesn't want to keep them for herself.

"It's important for me to be able to share it, and have other kids see it and feel it and wear it," Roberts Sahaydak said. "The sharing piece of it is the most important thing to me. So I always have it very accessible, so I can just grab it and go and share it. That's really the coolest piece about it."

With the women's team advancing to the World Cup Final on Sunday, Roberts Sahaydak hopes a new crop of women can bring home the gold and be able to share their experiences with others the same way she did.

"I think everyone's ready to watch the U.S. hold up that trophy again on that platform," she said. "That's what I'm really hoping for."

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Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JHeil11 or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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