By Shawn Hein

Jenifer DeCastro has combined two of her passions, soccer and photography, for the last several seasons on the sidelines.

The Owasso resident and owner of her own photography business recently got to shoot one of the premier events in the sport, a US Women’s National Team match.

DeCastro journeyed to St. Louis to shoot the USWNT against New Zealand on May 16, part of the Send-Off Series which was held prior to the World Cup in France.

“It was a challenge, but it was good,” DeCastro said.

DeCastro admitted she learned a great deal from the experience, beginning with her acceptance as an official photographer.

In order to get the opportunity to shoot the match at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, DeCastro had to apply through U.S. Soccer two months prior to the exhibition match. DeCastro didn’t learn until a few days prior to the event she had been chosen.

“It was kind of late notice, but I was excited,” she said. “When I got there, after I showed my pass and ID, I had full access to the venue except the locker room...You had the walk of the joint.”

DeCastro got down on the field in plenty of time prior to the match when she noticed another difference. A veteran of shooting high school soccer games, DeCastro typically has free roam of the sidelines, within reason. However, while capturing the USWNT match, all 20 photographers were limited to a designated area next to the field.

“You only have good shots of a quarter of the field. And, as a professional, I’m thinking I may not even get the shots I want,” DeCastro said. “Also, I was surprised by the competitiveness of the photographers. A lot of them are independent contractors. So they want to get the money shot and they want to make sure you don’t.”

DeCastro said seeing USWNT players like captains Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan live in action was a highlight. She also came away impressed with the squad, which rolled to a 5-0 win over the Kiwis, and getting a field-level view of the action.

“Both teams were so respectful and professional,” she said. “I was happy to see that they were a good example on the field. New Zealand is really good. It’s just that the US is so good that they make other teams look bad.”

Following the match, DeCastro stuck around to get candid shots of players on the field. After getting the opportunity to shoot a high-caliber event like the USWNT, DeCastro said she wouldn’t mind doing it again in the future.

“Of course, I’m absolutely more knowledgeable,” she said. “You can’t get into sports photography without liking sports. If you don’t you’re missing out on a big element of it.”

The U.S. opened World Cup play Tuesday against Thailand.

To see photos of the USWNT match or other examples of her work, visit Jenifer DeCastro Photography on Facebook.