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3. O'Reilly is Soccer America Women's Player of the Year
December 13th, 2006 2:32PM



Heather O'Reilly's college career ended as it started - with a national championship.

After starting as a freshman on one of the great North Carolina teams in history three years ago, she was the senior leader on a freshman-dominated team that won 27 straight games to claim the Tar Heels' 18th national championship.

O'Reilly didn't put up the numbers some of the other contenders for Player of the Year honors did - she finished with a respectable 12 goals and 14 assists - but she saved the best for last.

O'Reilly scored the insurance goal in Carolina's 2-0 victory over UCLA in the semifinals of the Women's College Cup and chipped the ball over Notre Dame keeper Lauren Karas for the first goal in the Heels' 2-1 victory in the final.

A regular on the U.S. national team since before she enrolled at North Carolina, O'Reilly has admitted that her national team responsibilities distracted her at times, but she says her senior season in Chapel Hill was special.

"It's truly an honor to play for the U.S., of course, to play for your country and score for your country," she said after the final. "But there's something special about playing for the University of North Carolina - the tradition involved, the dynasty that we're now proving that we're continuing."

O'Reilly, who finished her career with 59 goals overall and 15 in the NCAA Tournament (tied with Mia Hamm for third all-time), says she loved the daily routine of college life spent with her teammates.

"They're your best friends on and off the field," she says. "There's something special about college soccer and the way that we train every day after school at 2:30. I haven't found another training environment quite like that."

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