DECINES-CHARPIEU, France — In reaching the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup, the defending champion United States conjured chameleon-like versatility at each stage. The Americans trounced Thailand with an eruption of goals, outmuscled Spain in a slugfest and erected a defensive fortress to repel an assault by France.
But to get past England — their final hurdle in earning a spot in Sunday’s championship match — the top-ranked U.S. women had to tap every tactic in their repertoire, summon the best from lightly tested players and, yet again, draw on the stone-cold conviction that there was no situation they couldn’t overcome.
And two days before Independence Day, the U.S. swept into the final with a 2-1 victory over third-ranked England with style, depth, grit, an outstanding save by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and, most notably, without an ailing Megan Rapinoe, who had scored its four previous goals.
Forward Alex Morgan, who scored the game-winner on a perfectly timed header, celebrated by sipping an imaginary cup of tea, complete with raised pinky finger.
Whether it was a wry rebuttal to critics who faulted the Americans’ exuberance in their romp against Thailand or simply another example of American arrogance depended primarily on which side of the Atlantic one lives.
“We play a hard game, and that’s a confident game — not an arrogant game,” said Morgan, dismissing the narrative that had dominated England’s press in the run-up to Tuesday’s match that the three-time World Cup champion Americans were insufferably full of themselves. “We have a lot of noise around this team, and it doesn’t affect this team. So we’re just ... drinking our tea!”
Tuesday’s victory was far from certain until the final whistle.
The Americans came out in attack mode and struck first, just 10 minutes in, with Kelley O’Hara sending an arcing ball to Christen Press, who timed her leap perfectly. With a pop of her head, she sent the ball into the top corner of the net beyond the goalkeeper’s outreached hand.
The lead was short-lived. England equalized at 1-1 in the 19th minute, and Morgan’s header reclaimed the lead in the 31st.
Then came a defensive penalty in the 84th minute that gave the Lionesses a penalty kick. England tapped captain Steph Houghton to take it, and the Americans could do nothing but look on, knowing well that the chances of a goalkeeper saving the shot was 20 percent, at best.
“Credit to our team,” said defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who had risked the penalty, she explained afterward, to save what seemed a certain goal. “It wasn’t this, ‘Oh, no!’ moment. It was, ‘All right! This is soccer. Let’s go with it, and move on.’ ”
On the sideline, Rapinoe was in knots, kept out of the game by what she described as a mild hamstring injury.
“I didn’t even move, I was so stressed out,” Rapinoe said.
It seemed forever, the moment between Houghton stepping up to the ball and actually kicking it.
U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who had never started a World Cup or Olympic game before this tournament, locked on the ball. What portion of her next explosive move was instinct, and what part was expert reading of an opponent’s intent, Naeher couldn’t say afterward.
But the moment Houghton blasted it low and to the left side of the goal, Naeher pounced to her right and flopped on the ball, saving the score.
From there, minutes seemed like hours, as extra time was added.
And when the final whistle sounded, the entire bench emptied and stampeded to Naeher. Sauerbrunn, who lines up in front of her, got there first and told her, “I love you!”
In many corners, Naeher had been seen as the one unproven commodity on the U.S. team, if not its biggest vulnerability.
Tuesday night, she won the match, yet never would speak above a whisper about her process or her contribution.
“I don’t really remember it, to be honest,” said Naeher, 31. “I just try to stay focused. Take a few deep breaths. I just try to get a good jump on it, try to get a good read, hope to make a save, and was able to do that.”
Sauerbrunn explained later: “I don’t think she needed to have a big moment for us to know how good she was. ... Now the world knows how good she is.”
It was a bitter disappointment for England, whose coach, Phil Neville, 42, a former Manchester United and national team defender, had sought to instill what he called the “ruthlessness” of the U.S. women after taking over England’s national team 18 months ago.
It was, in a sense, the highest form of flattery, to push his players to compete with an attacking style and convince them that not only could they win their first Women’s World Cup, but they should win.
Winning is the only metric that matters in sports, Neville told them. This was their new standard and the new expectation, no matter what opponent the Lionesses faced.
The BBC expected 10 million to tune in to the match, which would make it the year’s most watched event.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, tweeted a video of support and admiration for the team, with the hashtag “roarforthelionesses,” saying, “Millions of people are watching. Good luck, girls. You have shown great qualities throughout the tournament. Come on, England.”
And England forward Nikita Parris had declared in the run-up that “nobody fears America,” a phrase that became a screaming Daily Mail headline.
Parris said, noting England’s recent good results: “We beat them, 1-0, [in the recent past]. Why shouldn’t we think we can beat them? Why do we have to come to this tournament semifinal and think, ‘Oh, it’s America?’ Nobody fears America. I don’t fear America and I don’t think my teammates do.’
But on this night, England’s best wasn’t enough to dethrone the Americans.
And it left Lioness Jade Moore looking for deeper meaning in their effort.
“We’ve come here and we want to inspire a generation again,” Moore said, her face red with tears. “We want to snowball the effect of women’s football. We want kids to grow up and want to aspire to be Lionesses, and I think we did that. The performance was good. The result wasn’t.”
A Keene State College journalism professor and a group of her former students have appealed a lawsuit over public records to the N.H. Supreme Court.
The dispute dates to fall 2017, when students in Marianne Salcetti’s public affairs reporting class requested public records from the city of Keene.
New Hampshire’s right-to-know law requires governmental entities to provide access to public records on request, unless those records are shielded by one of the law’s exemptions.
The city denied or partially denied five of the students’ requests for a variety of reasons.
Salcetti and the students — Colby Dudal, Alex Fleming, Meridith King, Grace Pecci and Abbygail Vasas — sued in late 2017, alleging the denials violated the right-to-know law. Cheshire County Superior Court Judge David W. Ruoff ruled against them last year.
The Supreme Court appeal was filed in April.
“We believe the superior court did not construe the right-to-know law properly in terms of favoring disclosure broadly, and instead construed the exemptions not narrowly enough,” said Gregory V. Sullivan of the Manchester firm Malloy & Sullivan, who is representing Salcetti and the students on appeal.
Previously, Salcetti represented herself and the students.
The appeal asks the high court to consider several questions, including whether the city misinterpreted certain requests, whether the city should have lowered or eliminated the fees it quoted for producing certain documents and whether the city should have to reveal the names of police officers in reports about citizen complaints of excessive force.
Salcetti and the students have until July 16 to file a brief with the Supreme Court. The city will have 30 days to respond.
As part of her fall 2017 class, Salcetti had students file public records requests with governmental bodies of their choosing, she told The Sentinel when the lawsuit was filed that December.
The city fulfilled requests from some students in the class, but could not do so for the ones that became the basis of the lawsuit, Dragon said at the time.
The five requests involved restaurant inspections, police officers’ use of force and certain types of criminal investigations. They were denied for different reasons, including personnel privacy. The city saw some requests as asking staffers to compile information into lists — essentially forcing them to create new documents, which the law does not require.
“Some of the stuff they were looking for is more research in nature,” Dragon said in 2017. “It’s not like they asked for a document. It was asking us to do research for them.”
Salcetti has argued that the city misinterpreted those requests and improperly used the law’s exemptions to avoid disclosure.
Sullivan said that while some students did use the word “list,” others used phrasing like “all documents.” Those “were turned into requests for lists not by the students, but rather by the city,” Sullivan said.
In his August 2018 order, Ruoff accepted the city’s interpretation that certain students seemed to ask for “lists,” rather than the underlying files. One request asking for certain police records, the judge wrote, was vague enough that the city could have rejected it for not adequately describing the records sought.
Two students requested lists of food establishments in Keene that fell below a certain inspection score. After some confusing back-and-forth, officials eventually told the students that the restaurant inspection records were kept in an electronic database, and city employees could not create custom reports.
One of the students, King, thought of a workaround — she requested any emails about health inspections the city had sent to restaurants in Keene.
Dragon, the city manager, told her three years of emails would produce 800 to 1,000 records, each one to three pages long. She said the city would charge a per-page printing cost that could add up to some $300.
King declined. It was, she later wrote in an affidavit, “a cost that is far out of my budget range, especially for what I assumed would be public knowledge.”
SWANZEY — Every year on Independence Day, a bell rings out through the center of Swanzey. It’s a tradition dating back more than 130 years — and, as it happens, one enshrined in the deed of the local library.
A section of the Mount Caesar Union Library’s deed, dated May 16, 1885, reads, “And as long as the United States remain free and independent, the boys in the neighborhood shall have the right, unmolested, to ring the bell on each succeeding Fourth of July.”
Of course, the practice is no longer limited to boys, according to Rob Kenney, senior trustee and treasurer for the library’s board of trustees. But since he came to Swanzey in 1957, he said, local kids have come to the library on Old Homestead Highway each year to take a turn tugging the giant rope that rings the bell housed in the building’s belfry.
The library promotes the event through its newsletter and website, Kenney explained, with varying levels of participation from year to year.
“I’ve been a trustee for over 30 years, and I think that we would get regularly, on the Fourth of July, 10 to a dozen children,” he said. “And now some years, we only get one or two.”
The bell dates back to the structure’s days as a school, said Richard Scaramelli, a former library trustee and local history enthusiast. When the building was a seminary and later an academy, it was used to call students from their dormitory across the street, he said.
The site was added to the N.H. State Register of Historic Places earlier this year.
The exact reason the former owners — George and Lucy J.W. Carpenter — included the bell-ringing in the deed when they donated the property to the nascent Mount Caesar Union Library Association is unclear, according to Scaramelli. But it’s not the only stipulation laid out in the document, which prohibits the use of the building for any “immoral purpose,” such as the sale of “intoxicating liquors or drinks whatever” or “dancing, card playing, gambling or skating.”
Those requirements could have been a product of the couple’s conservative values, Scaramelli said. But there is also some evidence in an account written by Mount Caesar’s first librarian that the building may have been damaged by such activities in the past, he said.
“It turns out that there were reports of vandalism and that some of those proscriptions in the deed probably are addressing issues that had already arisen in fact,” Scaramelli said. “Now, that’s an assumption.”
For the first time this year, the library hopes to add another element to the annual bell-ringing tradition, according to Kenney. Library trustees have been talking with the Swanzey Fire Department about sounding a siren housed atop the library’s cupola.
The siren was installed in the 1930s and was formerly used to alert the local fire company of calls, he said.
“That’s got quite a history attached to it. It’s not in use anymore, but it is on top of our building. So if we can get the fire department to cooperate, which so far they have, we are going to ring the siren at noon,” Kenney said. “So that would maybe become a new tradition, or it may be the last time the thing is ever heard.”
Marking the Fourth of July holiday with a bell-ringing is not an uncommon practice. The town of Hancock, for example, has long included the ringing of the meetinghouse bell in its Independence Day celebration, and in 1963, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the holiday as National Bell Ringing Day.
As for Swanzey’s own bell-ringing, the deed requirement was recently written about by Wendy Pelletier in the June edition of the N.H. Land Surveyors Association’s newsletter.
Because the tradition is preserved in the library’s deed, technically there could be legal ramifications if it ever lapsed, Scaramelli said. But he said it’s unlikely that anyone would bring such a grievance — and the library has always been conscientious about keeping the custom going.
“It’s a pretty painless thing to do just to publicize and make the library open for an hour on the Fourth of July, and kids come and they have a great time hanging on that rope, ringing the bell,” Scaramelli said. “So that’s a pretty feel-good proposition coming from the deed.”
From Kenney’s perspective, beyond giving local kids a chance to have fun and “make noises happen,” the Mount Caesar Union Library’s bell-ringing is part of the town’s history.
“It’s something I strongly personally believe in, [to] keep history alive. ... Why do I think it’s important to keep the tradition alive?” Kenney said. “Because I love the history of the town, as many others do.”
Children can visit the library Thursday between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to ring the bell. Library staff plan to sound the siren at noon, Kenney said. Additional information about the library is available at mtcaesarunionlibrary.weebly.com.