BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Exactly one week after scoring the final goal in last Sunday's World Cup Team USA women's soccer victory over Japan, Tobin Heath (Ridge Class of 2006) donated two hours of her time to greet her hometown fans in downtown Basking Ridge.
Outdoors on the porch of Ridge Family Dentistry, a beaming, friendly Heath signed soccer balls, athletic jerseys, and autographs. Hundreds of people, some wearing soccer jerseys from Ridge or nearby towns, waited on a line along South Finley Avenue that turned around the corner onto East Oak Street.
The 27-year-old willingly posed for photographs with local fans, some of whom she apparently recognized. Later, she said she had started the Bernards Township School system at Oak Street Elementary School, and moved through Cedar Hill, William Annin Middle School and Ridge High School.
Occasionally, Heath hugged friends from her girlhood years in Basking Ridge.
Katie Grierson, who said she plays on the girls soccer team at Ridge High School, where she is a rising junior, said she was excited to see Heath in town. She added she had seen the whole World Cup Final game the previous Sunday, in which Heath scored the last goal to nail down the USA team's 5-2 victory over Japan.
Another New Jersey resident, Carli Lloyd of Delran, scored three other goals, including a 54-yard kick down the field, and past Japan's goalie, that Grierson called, "amazing."
Two West Morris Mendham High School graduates, Christina Yerdon and Meghan Fischer, said they love Heath, and arrived early enough to be reaching the front of the line by about 1:30 p.m.
"We are big fans of the women's national team," Fischer said. "We pretty much watch all the games," she said of the two, who said they had played soccer in high school. Yerdon added she played soccer as a freshman at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
Abby Freda of Bridgewater, Gabby Agugliaro of Basking Ridge and Lauren Gsell of Far Hills, also were near the front of the line. They said they were recent graduates of Saint James School in Basking Ridge, and described themselves as "big soccer fans."
When asked, Heath said she thinks it's fantastic that women have gained a sport in soccer.
It was obvious that Heath, who had previously played in the World Cup game in 2011, and was a member of the 2012 US Olympics women's soccer team, was an inspiration to the many young girls in the crowd. Many carried soccer balls and dressed the part.
Mayor John Malay said he believed that Heath had contacted Dr. Cameron and Karen Witt, whose daughter had kept in touch with Heath after attending Ridge, to arrange the meet-and-greet event. The office is located at 44 S. Finley Ave. in Basking Ridge.
"She still has roots in this area," Malay said. "I think she's very generous to take some time off [for this] on a busy Sunday afternoon, especially in a post-tournament schedule.
Malay said township officials are hoping to name one of the upper athletic fields in Pleasant Valley Park in Heath's honor.
Here is a video of Heath being congratulated by a township family on her World Cup win.