Getting to know Sky Blue FC’s Yael Averbuch
By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
TCSR: On the decision to play club soccer and not high school soccer
YA: “Well, at the time, I really wanted to use the fall season, which was when my high school would be playing, to do some extra training and train with men. So, I decided that I didn’t have time to do both of those. So, I used that time to train to play club soccer, not play for my high school team.”
NJS: On her decision not to play high school soccer
YA: “First, I was very nervous about it, because obviously, I didn’t want to hurt anybody. I wasn’t sure how my school would react to that news. But they were actually very supportive about it. I still talk to coach Chris Johnson. He was my school’s high school coach and was extremely supportive. So, they really made it easy for me to do what I thought I needed to do to train and improve.”
TCSR: On why she chose to go to North Carolina
YA: “I thought that when I was looking at college programs, my main interest was going to a place, where I would improve the most over the 4-years that I was there. And I really thought that the program at North Carolina would be the place that would offer me the most, in terms of my own personal development. And it had always been my dream as a little girl to go to North Carolina, just like a lot of young girls.”
TCSR: On playing soccer at North Carolina
YA: “The program at North Carolina is very different than any other program that we played, or probably will ever play. It’s extremely intense and competitive. But I learned a lot of things that I think were very important. And, overall, had a great time being on the team. My teammates were absolutely amazing players and amazing people. And they’re some of my best friends. I’ll keep in touch with them forever. It was really a wonderful experience, not only because of the success on the field, but because of the people I met.”
YA: “Well, I didn’t really know what to expect going into North Carolina. At the time, my freshman year, there was a lot of National team players on the team — just to name some of them in Lorie Chalupny, Heather O’Reilly, Lindsay Tarpley — there was a lot of amazing players in the starting lineup. And I didn’t have any idea if I would be starting or not playing at all, or coming off the bench, so I worked hard to prepare for my freshman season. I was happy when that all paid off to start along all those great players.
“So, really, I was just thrown into the mix and was surrounded by people that was absolutely amazing. A lot of them were in their senior years. So, I just used the opportunity to learn from them — carry me and show me how its done at North Carolina.”
TCSR: On being named the National Player of the Year by Soccer Buzz and Top Drawer Soccer sophomore year
YA: “That was kind of like a dream to me. Sophomore year, I never really thought I would have as much success as I did. I did work very hard to prepare for the season and I knew that having a lot of amazing players — all that I played with freshman year graduated — I knew that I would have to step up. I did work very hard to make sure that I would be able to step up in that situation.
“I happen to put a lot of goals in the net that it almost took me by surprise. The success that I had in the end was a real honor, because the amount of National Players that have come from North Carolina, and to be included in that list, is one of the greatest honors.”
TCSR: On playing with O’Reilly at North Carolina and being future teammates in a few weeks with Sky Blue FC
YA: “Heather is a really inspiring person and player. It was great that I got to play with her at North Carolina for two years. I really got to know her there a lot. And just the enthusiasm that she brought to the team there with her leadership, which is something that really inspired me and tired to work towards. And now, just having the opportunity to be her teammate again, is going to be really great.
“We’re both from New Jersey and have been training together during our down time before the season starts. Heather’s just an energetic and fun person, and it will be great to be able to play on the field again and be able to be around her off the field again.”
TCSR: On the advantages of being O’Reilly’s teammate at both North Carolina and Sky Blue FC
YA: “Well, I think its good to come into this new environment that you’re already played with somebody. And, the fact that I was able to play with Heather before, we both know each other’s strength and weaknesses. And we know each other and understand each other’s style of play and different things that motivates us.
“That’s just a great bound for us to have as teammates coming into the season and it kind of gives us a step up on others since we played together. And it allows us to continue on what we already established (at North Carolina).”
TCSR: On helping the US Under-23 National team to the Nordic Cup Championship
YA: “I got the opportunity this past summer to be the captain of the Under-23 National team. And that was really great for me, because I haven’t gotten much International experience at any level during the years. Over the years, I’ve been on the youth national teams. But I hadn’t had the opportunity to be a starter on any of those teams or a leader. So, it was great for me to be able to go to the Nordic Cup and play International games. And really get the sense of playing a 90 minute International game at that level. Our team was very successful and it was a really good learning experience.”
TCSR: On the US Senior National team
YA: “I’ve been to a few training camps and I had 2 International camps with the Senior National team. After my sophomore year, with UNC, was the first-time ever that I got called in with the full National team. And we had a training camp in California and straight from there, I was selected to the roster for the ‘4 Nations Tournament,’ which was in China. So, after my first ever camp, I headed straight off to China and that’s when I got my two International caps in that tournament.
“I wouldn’t say that it was unexpected, but it caught me by surprise. All of a sudden, I was in China, across the world, playing with the players that I recently had been watching on TV. So, that was great for a lot of reasons. And its still my goal to get back with that team. I really want to, over the next couple of years, to get more opportunities with that team and hopefully be invited in more consistently.”
TCSR: On playing for legendary UNC women’s soccer head coach Anson Dorrance
YA: “Anson, he’s one of those guys when I was younger, I would watch videos on his program and read books about him. But to actually go and play for him, I think … he’s not all that different from the things that you would read, see, or hear about him or his reputation. He’s an incredibly motivating coach, and I think in a lot of ways, he’s a genius about how to take a group of young women and make them Champs, which is a really hard thing to do as consistently as he’s done it. But having played there, I don’t really think there’s any magic to it — its not like he has any special stuff upon the soccer world — its really just about the fact that he’s created a program, where nothing else is acceptable, besides giving your absolutely, complete effort and playing at your highest level and every possibly moment.
“And its something about Anson’s presence that brings that out of people — and the fact that every player that plays for him respects him so much that they were going to try hard, not only for him but for each other to continue the success of the program. He won’t let you settle for anything less than the absolute best that you could do.”
TCSR: On winning two National Championships in 2006 and 2008
YA: “Its funny, because when you go to North Carolina, you’re kind of expected within you’re four-years there to at least win 1 National Championship. Over the years, its gotten harder-and-harder. But my sophomore year, we won, but we were almost like the underdogs coming in. Because we had a really young team and I think there was like 7 freshman starting. So, that was really special for us. And this past year, my senior year, obviously, to go out winning more than one is more than I ever thought.
“Those two Championships are both very special for me for different reasons, because they were different teams and different situations. Overall, I really do think if I hadn’t won those two National Championships, I would still have enjoyed the experience just as much. Its just an extra, added bonus.”
TCSR: On the growth of the women’s soccer game after Mia Hamm, another former Tar Heel, and the rest of the 1999 World Cup team won the Championship in 1999
YA: “Yeah, those players, as they’ve all started to retire, its going to be interesting to kind of see who steps up and to see who’s in that next wave of women players. It’s a lot more competitive these days, and I think the number of elite players that the US is producing is great. The new league, the women’s pro soccer league, the Women’s Professional Soccer, is going to be a great showcase for talent. I mean even if you looked at the college ranks, the competition and the amount of teams that are really competitive at the highest level are increasing each year.
“And the pool for the National team is becoming more and more competitive. And I think, thanks to those women that you mentioned, the Hamm’s and that whole generation, is really picked up rapidly in the US. And, hopefully, the play will bring out the fans to the WPS games.”
TCSR: On her thoughts on how North Carolina will do next year
YA: “I think North Carolina is always going to have an outstanding team. I know that there’s so much talent that’s going to be on the field next year that it’s going to come down to the small things. The team chemistry type things. I will always think they’re going to be successful.”
TCSR: On her thoughts on having the fastest goal in college soccer history sophomore year in just 4 seconds
YA: “I do and I don’t. I remember it, because I’ve seen the video tapes of it. And I get asked about it a lot. But its almost like a blur in my mind. I remember a little bit of what I was thinking beforehand, but after it happened, it almost felt like a dream.”
TCSR: On her thoughts on the new pro women’s soccer league after the other pro women’s soccer league didn’t work out 5-to-6-years ago
YA: “I’m really optimistic about the new league, because its good that the developers of this new league have been able to look at the success and failures of the past league and learn from it. So, I think there’s going to be a lot of improvements to really make sure that this new league will work. Its starting off small, but I really think its going to be an excellent quality. So, I’m just hoping that it will catch on and we can learn from the past and move forward.”
TCSR: On being the 4th overall pick by the Sky Blue FC
YA: “I was really hoping to stay and play in Jersey for Sky Blue FC, just because I think the soccer community in New Jersey is excellent. And to be drafted by my hometown team was a great feeling and I was so happy. When I talked to my mom (Gloria Averbuch, the Sky Blue FC’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations) on the phone, she was obviously very happy, too. So, it was almost like a dream come true, and its even better to play professional soccer to play in my home community.”
TCSR: On any added pressure playing close to home (grew up in Montclair and Sky Blue FC plays in Bridgewater)
YA: “I think that there’s going to be a little bit since there’s going to be a lot of people there and that I grew up playing with in the stands. But I think that’s a good kind of pressure. I want my youth coaches and my former teammates to be able to see me play. And I’ll always be thinking about that a little bit trying to impress them. But I think that’s very important to be able to get the players from the area to bring the fans that’s supported them the whole time they’ve been growing up. Its really important to me that people I know will be in the stands.”
TCSR: On the future of the Sky Blue team
YA: “I’m really hopeful about it. Our team had a team meeting down . . . we’re actually down in Greensboro, North Carolina for preseason (until the end of the month) and we had a meeting on the first day to talk about our goals and our vision for the club moving on. I think, as a club, we have very high standards. I’m really excited about the team, both the coaching staff and my teammates.”