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A Whirlwind Summer For Heather O'Reilly

Soccer pro talks about the World Cup, Olympics and about helping young girls play the game.

Columbia, Brazil, France, Japan.

Over the last few months playing in Germany in the World Cup, and over her entire professional career, Heather O’Reilly has seen the changing face of women’s soccer.

Just a few weeks ago, the Olympic Champion, U.S. Women’s National Team member and East Brunswick graduate got another look at the face of soccer, albeit a younger one, when she held a three day soccer camp at the East Brunswick High School.

“It’s awesome, just great to come back to the old high school and do this,” she said following one three-hour session with several hundred pony-tailed girls.  “I like working with the kids. I think I’ll always work with kids. If I didn’t do this I’d be a teacher.”

. After notching wins over Columbia, Brazil and France, the U.S. team came up short against Japan in an extra time match that caught the world’s imagination.

“It was a hard bumpy road, and we sort of grew as a unit,” she said.

“We really didn’t have time for anything extra. It was cool, but it was such a whirlwind and we were upset about losing. When we got to Times Square, and there were these huge crowds of people, it made me think that we’d accomplished something cool.”

O’Reilly spent her early years playing soccer in East Brunswick, eventually going on to attend the University of North Carolina. She debuted with the U.S. National Team in 2002 and made the U.S. women’s team for the 2004 Athens Olympics when she was 19.   She has since returned to the area, leading the Women's Professional Soccer team Sky Blue FC to a championship and returning to East Brunswick to hold clinics, sign autographs, and inspire a new generation of soccer players, including those young players who attended her camp Aug. 10 to Aug. 12.

Next for O’Reilly and her U.S. teammates is a series of qualifying games for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. But that won’t happen until she and others get a much needed break in the fall.

“The fall is an opportunity to rest, you really need a break, especially after the emotional ride. Around October we’ll get a few weeks off and in November and December we get ready for the qualifying games."

When she finally does return to the pitch with her U.S. teammates, she knows for sure that her coach won't let them rest on their laurels.

“My coach will say 'we did some great things, but there is more work to do,' ” she said.

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