A senior co-captain on the Merrimack College women’s soccer team, Julia Heffernan brings leadership and steadiness to Warriors’ backline, as well as marking the opposition’s most dangerous offensive player.
According to 33-year Merrimack head coach Gabe Mejail, the 21-year-old psychology major from Westborough High is “athletic, fast, and strong and has great anticipation.’’
The Warriors were 3-2-2 through seven games, registering four shutouts while yielding just seven goals.
At Westborough High, Heffernan was a team captain, Midland League MVP and an Eastern Mass. and All-State selection her. She was also indoor track MVP and a record holder in the 4x400 relay and 600 meters.
Her grandfather, Michael, played football at Holy Cross (Class of 1953). Her father, Brian, was the leading receiver for the Brown University football team in 1985; he also played lacrosse in college.
Q. How do you approach the responsibility of going up against the other team’s best attacker?
A. Each forward has different strengths so I’ll talk with coach [Mejail] about their particular skills. For example, if a player has a really strong left shot, I’ll try to force her to the right. Or if my opponent has very good foot skills, I’ll know to stay back and not dive at the ball.
Q. When did you first play soccer?
A. I was 5 years old on a youth soccer team coached by my dad. To this day, he jokes with me that he made me the player I am today.
Q. What is your favorite course this semester?
A. Gender in Society taught by professor Marybeth Salerno. It covers the growth of feminism and is empowering. It makes me appreciate the opportunities I have today.
Q. Have the college athletic experiences of your grandfather and father helped you?
A. Definitely. My dad was especially helpful when I would send emails to prospective college coaches asking them to watch me play. He also stressed conditioning because he always worked out while in college and felt it prevented serious injury.
Q. What was your reaction being named co-captain?
A. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’ve always been a team-oriented person and I think that was recognized. I take the responsibility very seriously.
Q. What did you do this summer?
A. Some baby sitting for a neighbor; coaching at clinics for a club team called BEST Soccer, which is run by my former high school coach, Paul Mumby, and working out at Athletic Based Training in Holliston.
Q. What is your favorite memory as a student-athlete at Westborough High?
A. It was the “week under the lights’’ which occurs every other year because we do not have lighted playing fields. They set up temporary portable lights and I was fortunate because it was my senior year. And we won our soccer game before our biggest crowd of the season.
Q. What are your plans after graduation?
A. I want to work with kids, but graduate school could come first. I love soccer and can’t go without it so I’ll hopefully play in a women’s league.
Q. What is your family’s favorite vacation destination?
A. My grandparents, Gaspare and Louise Bellomo, have a house in Falmouth on Cape Cod and we get to spend two weeks there every summer. We usually hit the beach at 9 a.m. and stay until at least 5 p.m.
Q. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past year?
A. “Me Before You,” a very powerful and moving story, but I don’t want to give the plot away.
Q. How would you describe your relationship with your younger siblings?
A. We’re really close. I just try to be there for them because they have always been there for me. Our team certainly knows when the Heffernan family is in the stands.
MARVIN PAVEMarvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org