The Eastern Regional High School (NJ) field hockey team’s series of state championships was stopped at 21 in a row via the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Unsurprisingly, the Vikings, led by All-America midfielder / striker Ryleigh Heck, continued to return to championship form in 2021 .
“Our program is very serious,” said Heck, who set the national record for single seasons with 125 goals during his senior season and averaged 323 career goals. “We always work hard and the culture and atmosphere is passionate and competitive. No one ever stops working to be successful.”
Star play and determination are the reasons why Heck, who achieved National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-America first team honors and helped Eastern Regional High School to a 25-2 record, is among the nominees for the All-USA TODAY HSSA Field Hockey Player of the Year.
“Ryleigh is this beautiful, sweet, loving girl,” said Eastern Regional High School head hockey coach Kerry Heck, who is also Ryleigh’s mother. “Every time I look at her, I think of the first time she picked up the (national hockey) stick. When she was 3 years old, she just had this look in her eyes that has continued until now. On the field, off the field she is a drama and no drama player. “
The final goal of Ryleigh Heck’s high school career secured a Tournament of Champions crown against Oak Knoll on a penalty kick corner that stretched past the final horn. But Heck, who is tied to the University of North Carolina, is resolute in proclaiming a result derived from a unit that works as one.
“We all have the same goal,” she said of the Vikings. “It’s about working hard and winning with my teammates. The focus is on getting the team’s goals done. It’s about the team and focusing on what we want to do as a team to be successful.”
Kerry Heck said Ryleigh Heck joined other seniors Isabella Bianco, Kylie Dawson, Tess Herman, Riley Hudson and Susan Miller to set the tone for a phenomenal championship race.
“Before the preseason, during the summer, the girls had captaincy drills,” Kerry Heck said. “And this is where it (leadership) starts. It was just an incredible season. The girls were robust and their leadership was off the charts. They played for each other and it didn’t matter who had assists, goals or saves. . “
Ryleigh Heck said it was fun to have her mom as a coach.
“She’s really trained me since I was three, so I foresaw exactly what she wanted and needed,” Ryleigh, who scored six or more goals in a game nine times during her senior season, with a maximum of 10 goal in a victory. against Lenape High School, said. “She was there pretty much from start to finish, and now it’s in college.”
Kerry Heck said Eastern Regional High School has been a major player in field hockey for decades, and athlete students feel compelled to build on that legacy.
“The girls are now playing for the girls who started that success so many years ago,” Kerry Heck said. “When these kids were little kids, they came and saw Eastern struggles. They just want to continue the success and push it to the classes that come up. You really have to work for what you want, and they demonstrate that.”
Regarding her Viking heritage, Ryleigh Heck offered the following:
“I would hope they would remember me as a hard worker who was a leader and got things done – and my passion for the game,” she said. “It makes me happy.”
Next for Ryleigh is a new chapter in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as a Tar Heel.
“When I first got to know the atmosphere, the people, the culture – that’s where I wanted to be,” she said. “My freshman year, I made a commitment during the spring.”
Kerry Heck will forever remember the way the 2021 season ended.
“I think the most rewarding (moment) was the very last match when I watched one of our videos with all our seniors kissing the championship trophy – knowing they were doing it together,” she said. . “It was so memorable to know that this was the last tournament of champions in the state. They are stopping them in all sports this year. The joys, the laughter … not all matches were perfect, there were times when they had to dig deeper and push yourself. “