BASKING RIDGE, NJ — Even though the Ridge girls soccer team played fewer games in this abbreviated season than it had in years, senior three-year starter Abbie McCrea scored a career-high in goals and also passed for a career high in assists.
A forward on her club team, McCrea had spent the last two years on the back line for Ridge during the fall season. She asked Ridge girls soccer head coach Katie Donahue before the start of the 2020 season if she could move up to play her natural position at forward for her senior season.
The move paid off with a sectional championship. McCrea scored a breakaway goal 13 minutes into the first half on Sunday and the tally held up as Ridge defeated North Hunterdon, 1-0, to win the Central West C sectional championship.
"Abbie was an outside back last year," Donahue said. "That's where we needed her, and she could defend and she had speed, and she could also get up into the attack when necessary. That was where we needed help. But she wanted to play forward. That’s where she's playing in college, and she wanted to do that for us this year."
McCrea, who also had two goals in Ridge's first-round victory over Princeton, not only scored the Red Devils' biggest goal of the season in the final, but it may well have also been the most spectacular.
"I saw an opportunity to steal the ball from North Hunterdon when the center back played a pass across the field," McCrea described. "I took the chance and sprinted towards the ball before it reached the other defender. As I took off downfield, I could feel a player on my back and knew I had to take the shot. I was planning on dribbling closer to the goal, but ultimately ended up taking the shot over the goalie's reach."
McCrea, who led Ridge in both goals and assists with nine and seven, respectively, this season, is the Valairco Heating & Cooling TAPinto Basking Ridge Athlete of the Week.
"Abbie had a great state tournament for us," Donahue said. "She has tremendous speed and stretch and technical ability. For her to get that goal is a testament to a lot of the work she did all season."
McCrea, who will attend Winthrop University in South Carolina, took time this week to respond to some questions from TAPinto Basking Ridge.
Q: You played on the back line last year. Talk about the move back to forward this season?
A: I have always been an outside forward, however, the past two years Coach Katie has asked me to step up and help out on the defensive side of the field. We decided together at the beginning of the season my focus would be on playing up front, which would allow me to contribute on the offensive side of the field.
Q: Have you seen your game change over the last three varsity seasons?
A: My game has definitely improved over the past few years. Each season we had different challenges as a team we had to overcome. Working in the back line helped me get a different perspective than what I was used to up front. I was able to use what I had learned over the past few seasons to my advantage while playing forward.
Q: What has been the best advice you have received from a coach?
A: The best advice I received was from my first trainer, Heinz Consten, who always told me to “play like a tiger” and work as hard as I can. He taught me to always make space on the field in order to create opportunities. I truly believe this advice has shaped me into the player I am today.
Q: What has been your most memorable game to date?
A: Without a doubt this post season has definitely been memorable, as the team worked together and fought hard to win the sectional finals versus North Hunterdon. Over the course of my entire highschool career I would have to say our win last year against Pingry in the County Semifinals. It was a tight game that went into overtime. I was playing on the outside in the defense and found an opportunity to come up the left side. When I got about 30-40 yards from the goal I took the shot and scored!
Q: What made you choose Winthrop University?
A: When I was looking at colleges to attend, Winthrop University definitely stood out to me the most. The athletic field complex along with the main campus were beautiful, and the warm weather in South Carolina was attractive too! Once I had the opportunity to visit campus and play at the ID clinic with the team, it really felt like a family. I am beyond excited to be able to continue my soccer career at Winthrop.
Q: What do you like most about Ridge High School?
A: My favorite thing about Ridge has to be the amazing staff and student body who support all club and sports teams.
Q: Do you have a favorite subject?
A: My favorite subject at Ridge would have to be Latin. Ms. Fairbanks has been my favorite teacher throughout my four years at Ridge, and has really made me love the language. I enjoy learning about the culture of the Romans and the Greeks and look forward to the upcoming Latin trip next summer in Italy.
Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
A: My favorite athlete is Christie Welsh who not only played on the Women's National Team but also coached and trained me for a year when I was younger. She always told me to keep going when times were tough, and helped me gain more confidence as a player.
Q: Do you have a role model?
A: I’d have to say my aunt and godmother, Colleen Maguire. She was an excellent basketball player and all-around athlete, who has always worked hard and has been very successful both athletically and professionally. I hope that I can achieve similar success in college and in life.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not playing a sport?
A: I love spending my time with my friends, family, and my two dogs, Jax and Phineas. I also enjoy baking cupcakes, macarons, and cookies in my free time, especially with all the time we’ve been spending at home this year.
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