During what was supposed to be the most active recruiting part of his high school career at Torrey Pines, Garrett Heine was a prized Division I soccer prospect without a Division I suitor.
Heine had all the credentials, with a career that included leading the Falcons to the state semifinals his junior year and playing on the elite club circuit for the San Diego Surf U.S.A. Soccer Development Academy.
But one by one, his peers were getting and accepting offers from top-level Division I colleges. Doubts crept in, as Heine began to wonder if his best shot at a Division I career might be as a walk-on.
“The recruiting process was tough for me,” he said.
An offer from George Washington University (Washington D.C.) came in halfway through his senior year, by which time most of his peers had already made commitments. GW’s burgeoning soccer program, and its reputation for stellar academics, made it a nice fit for Heine.
“I ended up at a school where I was able to develop academically and athletically,” Heine said.
It’s hard to envision a scenario that could have worked out any better for him.
Heine recently concluded a breakout junior year, leading the Colonials to their first regular season Atlantic 10 Conference championship since 2011. He led the team with nine goals and was among the team’s leaders in assists with four.
Heine has excelled in the classroom too. He’s majoring in finance.
“For the last two to three years we’ve been the same caliber team, we just haven’t had that extra edge to give us the one goal we needed to win,” Heine said.
Heine said he developed that edge working with teammates and coaches during the offseason.
The extra work paid off.
Heine scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 double-overtime victory over Saint Louis that clinched the Colonials’ conference championship. His score came after he was fouled in the box in the 101st minute.
“A lot of hard work put me in the right place at the right time to score that goal to push our team forward,” Heine said.
Heine’s game-winning goal against Saint Louis was his sixth game-winner of the season, ranking him fifth in the nation among all Division I schools in that department.
“That was one of the big confidence moments where I wasn’t afraid to miss,” Heine said. “I felt like I had everything going for me and I was fouled in the box. I was excited to take the kick and I followed through.”
But Heine admits that confidence hasn’t always been there.
“I’ve had some rough patches where I wouldn’t be stepping up to make that kick,” Heine said.
He attributes the GW experience as a key factor in his development, noting the regular playing time he had as freshman and sophomore contributed to a greater comfort level on the field he now enjoys.
“That was huge for my development as a player on and off the field,” Heine said. “I think being an influential part of the team you create relationships with some of the older players. Learning from other players and how to compete was really beneficial for me.
“I think all that boosted my confidence and put me in that position.”
Heine credits longtime Falcons’ coach Andy Hargreaves with instilling in him and his teammates the belief that they could consistently make deep playoff runs each year, even in years that followed heavy graduation losses.
“He made us believe every year that no matter the personnel you have, you can get the job done and be successful,” Heine said. “People graduate and things happen, but it seems like Torrey Pines is able to have someone step in and lead the team where it needs to be as a program.”
For his part, Heine credits his family believing in him with his ability to get through some of the challenging periods of his career, noting the support of his parents, Ken and Elaine Heine, his younger sister Sarah (a former Torrey Pines cheerleader who’s now at Virginia Tech) and his younger brother Jason (a current freshman soccer player at Torrey Pines).
For a player who didn’t many athletic scholarships to choose from, Heine now has an abundance of options as he prepares for life after college.
“That’s one of my biggest decisions right now, whether I want to pursue a career in the financial service industry, go to law school or try to make it as a professional soccer player,” Heine said.
And that’s not a bad problem to have.
“It’s a problem that has many solutions,” he said jokingly.