Leesburg, VA., (07/22/2021) — Anna Heilferty’s first career regular season start for the Washington Spirit against the North Carolina Courage was particularly special. After already recording seven appearances in her rookie season, the young midfielder returned to familiar territory and played the first full 90 minutes of her professional career in front of a hometown crowd at Audi Field on July 10.
“It was really special just to play for our home crowd at Audi, and on top of that I also had my family, friends, and coaches who all were a part of my journey to get to that very moment,” Heilferty said. “Playing in front of the hometown crowd, you can really feel the energy and support, so it was just an all around amazing experience.”
Local fans may recognize Heilferty’s goal-scoring capabilities and lethal presence on the pitch. As a Virginia native, the 22-year-old midfielder is no stranger to the Washington, D.C. area. Heilferty grew up in Falls Church, VA — which is under 30 minutes from Audi Field — and attended Justice High School. In 2016, Heilferty was named an All-Met and Player of the Year in the Washington, D.C. region by The Washington Post.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic cancelling the Patriot League’s Fall 2020 season, Heilferty came back to Virginia and began training with the Spirit. The rookie had the opportunity to continue developing her game during a period in which many college players found themselves without access to adequate training. Heilferty trained amongst a host of experienced players, including Andi Sullivan — another Virginia native. Soon after, the Spirit selected Heilferty as the 19th overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft.
“Being a “homegrown” player in the NWSL is not very common, so for that I feel very lucky,” Heilferty said. “Everything I do feels a little more personal. I grew up watching the Washington Freedom at the time, and knew what this team meant to the DMV and that supportive community has only grown. Being able to play for and represent my hometown team is very special.”
During the 2021 Challenge Cup, Heilferty appeared in every single match for Washington, making one start against North Carolina and playing a total of 125 minutes. The rookie proved to have a successful tournament, showing off her versatility in a season that would require just that.
With key players such as Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett heading to Tokyo for this summer’s Olympic Games, Heilferty will look to step up and help lock down the Spirit’s backline. Playing as an outside back in Richie Burke’s system requires skill on both sides of the ball which is where Heilferty’s experience at forward comes into play. Her ability to get up and down the flanks to combine with the forward trio of Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman will be key to remaining a part of the lineup.
One advantage of being a local product is the ability for friends and family to attend matches. So if you are out at a Spirit match at Audi Field or Segra Field, keep an eye out for the Heilferty clan dressed in number 21 jerseys and cheering loud and proud for their hometown favorite.