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Offense

Krista Longo ’15 launches a shot that just cleared the outstretched hand of Trinity goalkeeper Devan Osegueda. The ball ricocheted off the crossbar and landed in the goal to give William Smith a 2-0 lead in the national championship game. Longo, who also scored the Heron game winner in the semifinals, was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the Championship. (Photos by Larry Radloff/D3photography.com)

The Long Road Back

by Paige Mullin

The 2013 Heron soccer team proved they were truly motivated towards a common goal – a national championship. For forward Krista Longo ’15 and midfielder Dineo Mmutla ’15 that force pushing them to succeed this season was fueled by spending time away from the soccer field last fall.

Longo tore her ACL during spring practice in April 2012, while Mmutla spent the majority of last year battling a frustrating knee injury.

Longo had surgery after returning home following final exams in May of 2012. She rehabbed all summer and during the fall semester, on her own and during team practices. Mmutla’s route was different. After suffering physical pain from her injury and dealing with the overwhelming mental pain of not being able to execute the kind of soccer she wanted, she decided her best option was to give her body a break. Mmutla ended her season after playing in four games in 2012. She traveled home to South Africa over the summer and her sabbatical proved extremely beneficial.

“Being injured last year was really tough,” says Longo. “Not being able to play at all made me very anxious to play this season. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming back from such a major injury but I knew I could do it. I worked with the athletic trainers while the rest of my team was practicing every day. I worked even harder because I knew this season would be an important one and I wanted to contribute in every way possible.”

And contribute she did. Longo played in all 24 games and ranked second on the team with eight goals. She was selected to the NCAA All-Tournament Team and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player after producing the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Capital in the national semifinals and scoring the Herons’ second goal in the 2-0 national championship win.

This year Mmutla returned to the soccer field refreshed and motivated. “This season I wanted to accomplish things that I’ve never accomplished before. I’ve always been happy to play soccer, but this season I was eager to accomplish greater things with the team. I was mentally ready. I was planning to do things I was not able to do while I was away, which is to have fun and enjoy the game while making my way to Texas.”

Mmutla took on the role the team needed her to play, starting 22 games at the midfield position, and playing a greater part in the defensive unit. Mmutla also stepped up offensively when the Herons needed her. She scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Ithaca in the NCAA tournament sectional finals, securing a trip to San Antonio for William Smith. Mmutla garnered All-Liberty League first team honors and was named to the NSCAA All-East Region first team this year.

“Winning the National Championship has been a huge goal for both the team and me every year,” says Longo. “It’s pretty unbelievable to say that we are National Champions. We’ve accomplished so much and worked so hard this season. This team was something special this year, and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to win a national title with than these girls.”