The U.S. Women's Soccer Team has knocked off the New Zealand team 2-0 with an assist from former Basking Ridge resident Tobin Heath, and now moves on to the semifinal on Monday against the winner of a Great Britain vs. Canada match.
The U.S. team is undefeated, 4-0, following the Friday morning game against the New Zealand game, played in Newcastle, England.
What it means for Ridge girls soccer players
At home, Ridge girls soccer coach Katie Donahue said prior to Friday's game that in general, having her team members watch the Women's National Team play is always a great way to set the tone for the start of preseason.
"And then to have that connection of seeing a player who used to wear the same uniform they suit up in is just a truly amazing thing," Donahue said in an email.
She said that speaking for herself, she is thrilled for the Olympics games to start the team's season.
As for her own experience with Heath, Donahue recalled that during her first year of teaching in Bernards Township, in 2003, I volunteered with the varsity team thanks to then-coach Todd Hebden taking her on board as a former college soccer play.
"That 2003 season, the team [with Heath] had a 22-0 perfect season and was ranked third nationally," Donahue recalled. "I learned so much about the level of play that high school soccer could be!"
In the 2004 school year, Donahue said she accepted a coaching position on the freshman soccer team, and then helped with varsity as needed. She said she continued to be impressed by Heath's playing.
"She would beat players 1 versus 1, 1 versus 2, and then dish the ball out for an assist to a teammate," Donahue said.
She said Ridge Athletic Director Rich Shello described Heath perfectly as having been a team player in high school, as quoted in a previous Patch article during last year's World Cup game, in which Heath also participated.
Heath was was 100 percent committed, and therefore during her senior season, fall 2005, she physically could not fulfill her National Team commitments with the high school schedule, Donahue recalled. "In fact, the 2004 State Final game she literally ran off the field to go catch a plane to some National Tournament!" said Donahue, a moment that previously had been recalled by Shello last year.
What else is impressive about Heath
Donahue recalled other impressive accomplishments about Heath — "besides being one of the most well-liked, down to earth players that make the players around her better" — including being part of the 2006, 2008 and 2009 NCAA National Champions with University of North Carolina; a 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist and, in 2010, she was the first overall pick by the Atlanta Beat in the Women's Professional Soccer.
As Heath and the U.S. Women's team prepared to head out on the field for their second Olympics game against Colombia, two Ridge girls soccer players, including junior-to-be Shaye McCoye, spoke of how Heath is a good role model for their team.
"I think it's awesome," said Emily Rowe, another rising junior who plays on the Ridge girls soccer team.
Even aside from soccer, Rowe said, "She [Heath] is an inspiration to all girls at Ridge."