Three South Siders honored in NYS High School Girls Hall of Fame

Judi Croutier and Crystal Dunn
Judi Croutier and Crystal Dunn
Sue Grieco/Herald

Of the 18 honorees inducted into the New York State High School Girls Soccer Hall of Fame earlier this month, three of them once reigned at South Side High School, helping to build the avid soccer culture that exists in Rockville Centre.

Coaches Judi Croutier and the late Bob Bigelow, along with professional soccer player Crystal Dunn, represented South Side in the Hall of Fame’s first induction class, which included standouts with roots across the state, like Rochester’s Abby Wambach, who retired in 2015 from the U.S. Women’s National Team with 184 goals, the most by a man or woman in international play.

Bigelow, who died in 2011 at 71, spent 32 years as a physical education teacher in Rockville Centre, where he coached boys’ basketball from 1968 to 1982, leading the Cyclones to four state basketball titles. In 1980, he began a 21-year stint as coach of the girls’ soccer team, which went undefeated three times and garnered 10 New York State championships, 13 Eastern New York State titles and 16 Nassau County championships under his watch.

Croutier, a former South Side player and 1985 graduate who played for Bigelow and spent five years as his assistant coach, guided the Cyclones to five state girls’ soccer championships and eight Long Island titles in as many years, stepping down as the varsity head coach in 2010. She now works as a teaching assistant in South Side Middle School’s CORE program, which serves children with intellectual disabilities.

“He set the philosophy for it, the whole game plan,” Croutier said of Bigelow, “and we kind of just stepped in and continued with what was there.” She added that her former coach was very “technical and tactical” and that she would seek advice from him even after he retired.

The best part of it all, according to Croutier?

“Getting to go to states, going once is like a once-in-a-lifetime thing and we were fortunate we went all eight years that I was there,” she said. “Each one is different and was special in their own ways.”

Croutier coached Dunn, 25, who led the team to state titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009. In her three seasons at South Side — she did not play for the Cyclones in 2008 due to U.S. youth national team commitments — she scored 46 goals and tallied 35 assists, helping her team accomplish undefeated campaigns in her final two seasons. In the 2009 state championship game, Dunn scored four goals, notching a hat trick in the first 20 minutes of the match.

“She made everybody better and she would play in any position,” Croutier said, noting that she was always upbeat and led by example.

Dunn went on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she helped the Tar Heels win the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship in 2012. After her collegiate career, she was selected first overall by the Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League’s 2014 College Draft. She won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award during her second season in 2015.

Since 2008, Dunn has played on the youth and senior national teams, and in 2016, she tied a U.S. women’s national team record with five goals during a win over Puerto Rico in the final round of group play in an Olympic qualifying tournament. In January, the South Side graduate joined the Chelsea Ladies Football Club, a team based in Fulham, England.

“It was very humbling,” Croutier said of being honored with her former coach and one of her players. “I think it tells a lot for what South Side’s program has been that they recognized us…”