The Atlanta Beat’s No. 1 Women’s Professional Soccer draft pick Tobin Heath went back to the University of North Carolina recently to finish up classes and graduate before coming back to play in the WPS next season.
The 22-year-old midfielder played four years at UNC, winning three NCAA Championships in 2006, 2008, and 2009. She played in 21 games her senior season, placing first in assists (10), third in shots (51) and points (20), and notching one game-winning goal. She was also chosen as U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Athlete of the Year.
The New Jersey native became the very first-overall pick in the 2009 WPS draft, although an early season-ending ankle injury kept her out of a majority of the season’s games. Heath was still able to see what being a part of the WPS league is all about, and is ready to contribute even more on the field next year as a professional soccer player after she finishes up at school.
WK: When did you get back to North Carolina? How does it feel to be back?
TH: I got back Saturday (August 21) and it’s actually been really cool being back. I got to see a lot of my old teammates, and I’ve been down at practice to watch the UNC team and check out the new freshman to see how everybody works. I came back to finish classes and I begin on Tuesday (August 31). It’s just a great energy around campus, and I’m fortunate that I can finish up this fall.
WK: Have you gotten to watch any UNC games since you’ve been back?
TH: Their first home game is this Friday and it’s against Stanford, who we played in the National Championship last year. It’s going to be a great game because, obviously, it’s the home opener, but also because it’s the No.1 versus the No. 2. So, I’ll probably see them play.
WK: When do you plan to graduate?
TH: I plan to graduate in the Spring. My goal is to take 15 hours this semester and then take two classes online during the Spring to finish.
WK: Was UNC always your top choice for college?
TH: UNC was basically the only thing I knew. I heard growing up that they were the best and that’s where I always wanted to go. As soon as they wanted me I decided to come here. I never really considered going anywhere else.
WK: Does it feel weird going back after being in Atlanta for so long, or does it feel just the same as before you left?
TH: It’s definitely exactly the same as I left. Not much has changed except that there are some new faces and we’re missing some old ones. It feels like home here. It’s got a great system here with the Carolina soccer team and they take great care of their alumni. I fit right back in here and it’s been fun so far.
WK: Although you didn’t get much playing time with your injury, what was your experience like in Georgia with the Beat?
TH: It was fantastic. I always tell everyone how much I enjoyed my time there. It was a bummer that I didn’t get an opportunity to play, but it was great being there and being around the team, along with the whole organization. I got a nice glimpse of what being a professional soccer player is like without the playing aspect. I’m very excited for next year to get the opportunity to be on the field and to contribute that way.
WK: Was there anything you really missed about North Carolina while you were away?
TH: I think I just really missed my teammates, even my teammates that were drafted to other teams. I always enjoyed when their team came into Atlanta and I had the opportunity to catch up with them and see how they’re doing. So, just the people that are around here that I formed really awesome relationships with are what I missed the most.
The Atlanta Beat play their last home game on Sunday, September 5 at KSU Soccer Stadium at 6 PM EST. Their final match of the season will take place at Maryland Soccer Plex against the Washington Freedom on September 11 at 7 PM EST.
*Photo courtesy of ISI Photos.