It makes sense for Sky Blue FC to have a few players from the state of New Jersey. After all, the WPS club is based out of Somerset Hill, and plays in New Brunswick, NJ.
The club has four players that hail from the home state in Yael Averbuch (Upper Montclair, NJ), Carli Lloyd (Delran, NJ), Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, NJ) and Heather O’Reilly (East Brunswick, NJ).
So what exactly is it about the Garden State that has allowed these four players to play in their home state?
Since 2003, Heather O’Reilly has been headed away from her home state in order to play the game she loves.
Her travels took her around the country for National team events, settling in Chapel Hill, NC for four years to play for the Tar Heels. She then went to Los Angeles, where she took part in training camps, then residency for the US Women’s National team, leading up to both the 2007 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics.
So when she was allocated to Sky Blue FC in 2008, it meant that she would finally be playing back at home.
In fact, with Sky Blue FC playing out of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, O’Reilly would be playing practically in her own backyard.
“The return is a really neat feeling,” says O’Reilly of finally playing in New Jersey. “There’s a lot of coaches and family in the area.”
Even though she has been out of the state, she’s been joined both at North Carolina and on the US Women’s National team by several other Jersey girls.
At North Carolina, she played with Mandy Moraca (Mantua, NJ), fellow National team and Sky Blue teammate Yael Averbuch, and US Women’s National team teammate Tobin Heath (Basking Ridge, NJ).
On the US Women’s National team, O’Reilly is joined by Sky Blue teammates Carli Lloyd, Christie Rampone and Averbuch as well as Heath.
O’Reilly credits the strong youth clubs and NJ State ODP program for the success of players from New Jersey.
“When they [the youth clubs] are successful, young players see that success and have role models,” she stated. “It’s tradition.”
However, she is also quick to add that there is a certain attitude that comes from being a New Jersey rep.
“Being from New Jersey is an attitude. It’s a tough attitude. They come through the system with grit and determination. It’s definitely something to be proud of.”
Being from the same state one has to wonder if there’s any connection between O’Reilly and Averbuch, Lloyd, and Rampone on the field—and, if so, how much of one.
“Definitely yes,” O’Reilly responded. “You learn by playing with each other.”
Heather and Sky Blue captain Christie Rampone have been teammates since O’Reilly began her career with the full US Women’s National team back in 2002. She also played against both Lloyd and Averbuch on their respective club teams growing up, as O’Reilly played for the PDA Torpedoes, Lloyd for the Mt. Laurel Strikers, and Averbuch with Arsenal World Class.
They know what her strengths and weaknesses are, and she knows theirs.
For Heather, though, it’s neat to be playing with Yael Averbuch and Carli Lloyd after seeing them so often on the field growing up.
With Averbuch drafted as Sky Blue’s first pick last year and Lloyd signed in the offseason, the three are finally reunited in their home state.
Is another Jersey girl poised to be added to the four-person home-state crew at Sky Blue?
“It would be a dream come true to add another Jersey girl [in Tobin Heath],” O’Reilly responded. “But with Sky Blue having the sixth pick, I don’t think it’ll happen.”
Well, fans and players alike can certainly dream, right?