BASKING RIDGE, NJ - Ridge High School's varsity girls soccer team could be poised for an impact season, and one of its best players has been able to draw upon a family of exceptional athletes to prepare her for success.
Chrissy Weyrauch, a 6-foot senior, is considered one of the best midfielders in New Jersey. She scored the only goal in Ridge's attention-getting 1-0 scrimmage victory over nationally ranked Northern Highlands last week, and she will be at the forefront of the Red Devils' drive for a Group 4 championship this season.
Last season, Weyrauch finished with nine goals and six assists to help Ridge reach the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 4 championship round, where Ridge lost in overtime to Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
In addition to having an older sister, Alex, who is sitting our her sophomore soccer season at Division 1 Holy Cross University after suffering a torn ACL in August, Chrissy's younger sister, Sami, is a sophomore who is a reserve midfielder on the Ridge varsity team.
And their mom, Laurie Pankuck-Weyrauch, was an all-state soccer player and All-Union County in basketball and softball at Gov. Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights in the mid-1980s before graduating from Susquehanna University, where her four-year basketball career earned her a place in that college's Hall of Fame.
"My mom got us involved in sports from the beginning when we were young," Chrissy said. "Alex always pushed me to rise up to the next level and she taught me everything. We are completely different players, but if she went for a run to get in shape, it encouraged me to go for a run to follow her example."
Laurie pointed out that Chrissy has been able to hone her talent by emulating some of her older sister's skills. "Alex is equally strong with her left and right foot," Laurie said. "And now Chrissy has a good left foot, which you really need."
Their path to prominence in soccer--as well as basketball, where Chrissy averaged 11.5 points per game for Ridge as a junior last winter--was partially paved by having a mother who grew up at a time when girls' soccer was just beginning to gain more widespread acceptance in New Jersey.
In fact, Laurie was a freshman on the first varsity girls' soccer team at Gov. Livingston in 1983.
"We were like pioneers," Laurie Weyrauch said of her own high school soccer team. "The opportunities in soccer have come so far in 30 years. We taught ourselves back in those days. We didn't have anybody teaching us the game. Our parents coached us."
Laurie's late father, Robert Pankuck, helped start the youth soccer program in Berkeley Heights when Laurie was young.
"I started coaching the girls' team when they were little," said Laurie, who was also a 1,000-point scorer in basketball in high school. "But, where we had faculty teachers coaching soccer, my daughters have had some great mentors. Look how far it has come for these kids; (Ridge head coach) Katie Donahue was a four-year starter for the Boston College women's soccer team."
The Weyrauch family, like so many in Basking Ridge and throughout New Jersey, were enthralled watching Team USA win the Women's World Cup earlier this summer, and it had additional meaning locally because Ridge High School graduate Tobin Heath was on the team.
In the spring, Chrissy plays for Jersey United Soccer Club. During her junior year, she made an early decision to attend Holy Cross University, where she is looking forward to playing with her older sister again.
Chrissy has helped "pay forward" the volunteerism of both her mother and grandfather in the sport by helping to run soccer camps in Basking Ridge during the summer. Now, with a highly anticipated varsity season about to get under way, Chrissy is looking forward to making the transition from center forward to attacking center midfielder in Ridge's new alignment.
"I think we are better than we were last year," said Chrissy, whose teammates include highly regarded defender Erin Convery. "We have more confidence, all our scrimmages have gone well, and our rivalries in the Skyland Conference are like a bloodbath, it's so competitive."