By Andrew Wroblewski
A native of Northport, Sue Ryan is known for her bevy of accomplishments.
The head coach of Stony Brook University’s women’s soccer team; a national soccer champion; a major contributor to the Eastern New York Olympic Developmental Program (ODP); and, now: a hall of famer.
“Being selected to the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame is humbling to be honest,” Ryan, who was one of two Huntington natives named to the hall earlier this year, said. “There are so many great players and people on Long Island, but to be honest, people probably know me better as a coach than a player… But what’s great is that I was playing while women’s soccer was developing for the very first time on Long Island.”
During the ’70s, Ryan grew up in Northport – where she attended high school – but the school failed to give her an avenue to get onto the soccer field.
With no high school program to speak of – and a hunger for soccer to satisfy – Ryan joined up with the Northport Cow Harbor Soccer Club to which she now “owes her career.”
“If it wasn’t for [Cow Harbor] I don’t think I’d ever have had the opportunity to manage the career I’ve had,” Ryan, who is entering her 30th season as Stony Brook’s head coach, said. “There weren’t many programs available for girls in the ’70s so I didn’t have a lot of opportunities available to me, but I achieved at the highest level I could, and it’s fortunate that the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) was able to look back at that. I owe them a great deal of gratitude.”
After graduating Northport High School, Ryan left Long Island for SUNY Cortland where she played for the women’s soccer team and ultimately won a national championship in 1980.
“The whole experience was very exciting,” Ryan said of her championship run. “We drove down to Colorado in two vans – quite a long ways from Cortland – and beat UCLA in the finals.”
But while the championship was undoubtedly sweet, it seems that Ryan’s heart never really left Long Island.
In 1978, Ryan competed with Long Island in the first-ever Empire State Games, an amateur statewide sports competition for New York. In her first three years playing in the games, Ryan helped Long Island to three consecutive gold medals.
“It was really an interesting dynamic since, at the time, Northport, Massapequa and Hicksville were the top clubs on Long Island and there was an unbelievable rivalry between us all – like Yankees-Red Sox level of rivalry,” Ryan, who currently resides in East Setauket, said. “But then the tryouts were announced and we – die-hard rivals – were all representing Long Island together on the field.”
Following her run with Cortland and in the Empire State Games, Ryan returned to Long Island where she landed a job with Harborfields High School as the school’s girls soccer coach – a move that would prove to be just a stepping stone for the recent graduate.
“Shortly thereafter, the position at Stony Brook opened up,” Ryan said. “I took the job [and now] we’ve been doing quite well. Last year we were regular season champions and the year before that we won the conference tournament.”
For her pioneering efforts as a player and her more recent efforts as a coach – Ryan is also head coach of the Region 1 ODP – Ryan was inducted into the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame on March 8 as LIJSL gathered for its 32nd annual convention at the Huntington Hilton.
Greenlawn’s Sara Whalen-Hess was also named to the hall.
“[Ryan] became one of Long Island’s best players and has been promoting soccer for the past three decades,” Richard Christiano, president of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association, said at the convention. “It was women like Sue who paved the way for [players like] Sara Whalen-Hess.”
Just another check on the ever-growing résumé for Ryan; but one that at least should be pushed to the top.