WEST BRUNSWICK - Talking about the future, Abbey Long thought about the past.
Seated beside Long, who has signed a letter to continue her soccer career at Cape Fear Community College, are her parents, Tracey and Webster. In the back are grandparents Juanita and Steve Blackburn.
If it were not for her eighth grade soccer coach, Chris Sanders, Long may have never played soccer in high school.
“He was my first soccer coach,” Long said. “I thank him for helping me and pushing me to become what I am today.”
Fortified with confidence, Long played soccer at West Brunswick. Last season, she made second-team all-conference. And now she has signed a letter of intent to continue her career at Cape Fear Community College.
“After I tried out, (coach Jackie DeNova) offered me a spot as a forward,” Long said.
She joins a top-flight program. The Sea Devils were 15-3-1 last season and have won three straight NJCAA Division I Region 10 regular-season titles. Six players were selected to the all-region team, including three to the first team.
Long was educated at Evelyn Smith Wray Village School before enrolling at West, and she admits the transition was difficult.
“My first year at West I felt like I was going to quit because I did not know anyone here,” she said. “But (coach Sanders) told me to keep on pushing. So I did.”
The Lady Trojans finished 12-5-1 and were county champions and reached the second round of the playoffs.
“I’m proud of the way it turned out,” she said.
Long scored nine goals and had three assists.
“I always enjoyed playing at West,” Long said. “I’m going to miss it.”
A memorable game was at home against South Brunswick. In a collision with a South player, Long’s jaw was jarred and a tooth was chipped. It may have been a preview of the intensity of competition in college.
“Coach (DeNova) said it was going to be a lot harder,” Long said. “She’s going to run it like a four-year college.”
That’s fine with Long, who said she hoped to play soccer at a four-year college. Long is a versatile athlete. She was a member of West’s first swim team.
“I’ve been swimming since I was 12,” she said. “I had a couple of years off until West got a swim team this year. I enjoyed it. Overall, it was really fun.”
But soccer became Long’s main sport - after a little shove to her confidence.
“(Coach Sanders) kept on pushing me,” Long said, “Telling me not to quit, if you want to play in college.”