Ashlyn Harris was never a stereotypical ‘girl’ as a child– her main ambition was to be just like her older brother. Eager to be ‘one of the boys’, skateboarding, surfing and climbing on roofs were just some of her favourite pastimes.
In fact, she even refused to play women’s soccer up until high school, instead joining the local all-boys team. Unsurprisingly, the determined goalie would often receive abuse from her opposition, but she was more than capable of dealing with their negativity, even if it wasn’t in the best possible fashion.
“She picked up a dead catfish on the beach. A whole, rotting catfish,” explained a former team-mate, describing how she had dealt with one bully. “And she smacked him in the face with it.”
Harris would begin her journey to the top of women’s soccer at Satellite High School, Florida, where she led the team to two state titles in four years. Likewise, she was also named in Parade’s All-America women’s high school team four times – the first player to achieve such a feat.
The rising talent turned out for the University of North Carolina women’s team during her college days. While injuries and competition from another promising keeper often kept her out of the side, a number of impressive displays would see her signed by lower league club Pali Blues, before she was drafted by Saint Louis Athletica in 2010. However, the team soon after collapsed, leaving Harris free to join Washington Freedom.
After proving herself between the sticks, Harris would get her big move to Women’s Professional Soccer side Western New York Flash. Her first season at the club would be one of the best in her career, as she conceded just 18 goals in 18 appearances to lead the Flash to their first ever WPS Championship title. The title was won after Harris emerged victorious from a tense penalty shoot-out against Philadelphia Independence in the final, a feat which deservedly earned her the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year award.
WPS would fold at the end of the season, leaving Harris free to find herself a new club. Keen to escape the uncertain future of professional women’s soccer in the United States, Harris opted to try her luck abroad, linking up with Bundesliga side FCR 2001 Duisburg. Despite impressing throughout her seven appearances for the German club, the talented shot-stopper was keen to join the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League upon its creation in 2013, announcing via Twitter that she would be returning to the States.
Despite her new club, Washington Spirit, coming in dead last in the inaugural NWSL season, they would gradually improved with each passing year, reaching the play-offs in the next two seasons. Her impressive performances for the club earned her a place in the women’s national team for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, where she claimed the second major honour of her career as the United States lifted the trophy.
Having since joined Orlando Pride for the 2016 season, Harris is enjoying a fresh start with her new club. While they demand a lot more from her, she has never been one to shy away from a challenge and has already began to make a big impact in Orlando.
“I am having fun, but I am tired,” Harris admitted. “It is definitely an adjustment, here in the States we are so used to technical, everything is technique, technique, technique. With him (Orlando Pride goalkeeper coach Marcos Machado) we are doing all sorts of things, diving over things. It is a much-needed fresh start.”