UNC women’s soccer adds former USWNT star Heather O’Reilly to coaching staff
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Heather O’Reilly, one of the all-time greats in University of North Carolina and U.S. Women’s National Team history, has been named the new volunteer assistant coach for women’s soccer at her alma mater. UNC head coach Anson Dorrance made the announcement on Thursday, August 29.
“Heather O’Reilly checks every box for us in an extraordinary way,” Dorrance says. “First of all she is a Tar Heel legend; secondly she is U.S. full National and Olympic Team royalty; and then her professional team resume is also lights out and even her academic resume is in the top one percent.”
O’Reilly was the top-ranked recruit in the high school class of 2003. She was already playing with the U.S. National Team as a high school senior in 2002 while attending East Brunswick (N.J.) High School. The college career of the dynamic forward would lead the Tar Heels to two NCAA championships and three ACC championships. While in the midst of her time at Carolina she scored one of the most important goals in Olympic women’s soccer history, sparking the U.S. to the Olympic gold medal in 2004. She would go on and win a second gold medal in 2008 and a third Olympic gold medal in 2012. Before retiring from the USWNT in September 2016, she played in three World Cups for the United States, winning a bronze medal in 2007, a silver medal in 2011 and reigning as a FIFA World Cup champion in 2015. She is finishing her long career in the professional ranks this fall as a member of the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League.
“I am incredibly excited and proud to join the UNC women’s soccer coaching staff,” says O’Reilly. “Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina, and the UNC soccer program all mean a great deal to me. What Anson Dorrance and Bill Palladino built here for 40 years set the standard for greatness which we have seen impact at national and global levels for women’s soccer.”
O’Reilly finished her college career tied for 10th in goals at UNC with 59 and she was 11th in points with 167 and 12th in assists with 49. Her career was capped in 2006 when she was named the national player of the year by Soccer America magazine while also claiming the prestigious Honda Sports Award for Soccer. She was also named ESPN The Magazine’s National Academic All-America of the Year for women’s soccer as presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America and she won the Patterson Medal as UNC’s outstanding senior female athlete. In 2017, she became the second UNC student-athlete ever inducted into the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame.
“It is an honor to be able to learn from Anson, a coaching legend, and pass what I have learned from my long playing career at an elite level to a new generation of Tar Heels,” O’Reilly says. “UNC remains the gold standard for women’s soccer in terms of competitiveness and player development and I am thrilled to be able to keep that tradition alive as I join the Carolina soccer family in this new capacity.”
O’Reilly was at her best in leading Carolina to NCAA Championships in 2003 and 2006, both years being named the offensive MVP of the College Cup. She was the unanimous choice as national freshman player of the year in 2003 and then was a first-team All-America selection in her final three seasons. O’Reilly led the Tar Heels in scoring three straight years from 2004-06 and she was the third-leading scorer on the 2003 team that went 27-0.
She had 15 goals, 14 assists and 44 points in NCAA Tournament games in her career. As she was rehabbing from the broken leg in 2003, she had three goals in the ACC Tournament and then exploded in the NCAA Tournament with an 18-point performance on eight goals and two assists. Those eight goals are the most in UNC history in a single NCAA Tournament.
In the summer of 2004, O’Reilly played with the U.S. National Team in Greece in the hopes of winning an Olympic gold medal. With the U.S. and Germany tied 1-1 in overtime of the semifinal game, O’Reilly blistered the back of the net off a Mia Hamm assist to catapult the Americans into the gold medal match. A few days later, the college sophomore possessed an Olympic gold medal after the U.S. beat Brazil in the final match.
In 2006, she led the Tar Heels to 27 straight wins and the national title after UNC lost its season opener at Texas A&M. She was the offensive MVP of the College Cup after scoring four goals and adding six assists in NCAA play. She scored the insurance goal in the 2-0 NCAA semifinal win over UCLA, scored the first goal of the NCAA final against Notre Dame and assisted on the eventual game-winning tally against the Fighting Irish.
Following her senior year she won the NCAA’s prestigious Today’s Top VIII Award. No Tar Heel student-athlete had won the award since 1984 and it was the crowning jewel of her college career. The award is the highest annually bestowed by the NCAA for athletic prowess, academic achievement and community service. O’Reilly played for Sky Blue FC of WPS for three years and led the team to the championship of the league in 2009. She joined the Boston Breakers of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2013 and then played for Kansas City where she won an NWSL title in 2015. In 2016-17, she played for Arsenal in the FA WSL 1 in England. She ranks eighth in USWNT history in caps, 11th in goals and sixth in assists. She currently plays for North Carolina Courage of NWSL, winning a league crown in 2018. She was a studio analyst for FOX Sports at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France.
O’Reilly was married to David Werry on October 1, 2011. A native of Canada, Werry is a 2006 UNC alumnus and four-year letterman on the men’s lacrosse team. They are owners of the Carolina Coffee Shop.
“Very few can compare to her in any category and yet, she has them all. To further embellish her qualities, she married a fantastic Tar Heel athlete and they live in a beautiful home half way between our stadium and our training complex. She is a role model like no other. This is a tremendous day for Carolina soccer.”