By Chris Chaney
The transition from high school to college is difficult for any student-athlete, but add to that mix the pressure of stepping onto a Division I soccer pitch while balancing a new move, a full-time class load and the newly-found independence that comes with living away from home for the first time and it can be downright terrifying.
At least for Batavia graduate Holly Harris, continuing her soccer and academic career at Ohio University allowed her to hold onto all of her green and white gear from high school.
“The transition wasn’t too hard,” Harris said of moving to Athens. “The hardest part of it was being away from home. I’ve never been away from home that long and during preseason and the season, I didn’t get to go home for three months, which was really hard.
“It was kind of difficult transitioning from (classes in) high school to college, because you don’t know really what to expect or how much you have to study for exams, but I did pretty well.”
The silver lining for Harris was that her parents would make the three-hour trip to Athens to catch their daughters’ games on the weekends.
“That was great,” Harris said. “It made coming to college a lot easier because I got to see them.”
Harris landed at OU by virtue of a standout high school and club career in Batavia. She was a three-time First Team All-Southern Buckeye Conference selection and a two-time Player of the Year in the SBC-National Division.
Her accolades would likely have been even more stout had she not suffered a torn ACL, forcing her to miss her entire junior season.
During her three seasons at Batavia, Harris scored 83 goals, which drew the attention of numerous Division I universities, including Indiana State and Dayton.
Ultimately, with a sister already in school at OU as well as a scholarship and the possibility of playing time as a freshman, Harris chose to become a Bobcat.
Harris played in all 19 games as a freshman for OU, starting in 14 of them. She was second on the team in goals scored with four and third in total shots (24) and shots on goal (11).
Her four goals came in two games, netting two against Cleveland State and Akron, respectively, to secure a pair of wins for the Bobcats.
Harris said that the adjustment to collegiate soccer wasn’t too difficult because of her time with the Cincinnati Soccer Alliance. The club experience allowed her to fit into the Bobcats’ strategy and make an immediate impact.
“You really don’t know what to expect and no body really knows what they’re in for, so you just have to work hard,” Harris said of getting playing time right away. “At the beginning of preseason I wasn’t doing too well because I didn’t understand the system we were in. I was nervous – beyond nervous – because I didn’t really know anyone on the team coming in. Finally, I got the hang of things and made sure I got in shape. I guess it paid off and I got some playing time.”
Harris and the Bobcats finished the season 8-10-1.
The Bobcats hired a new coach following the season, Aaron Rodgers (not the quarterback). Harris is excited for what Rodgers will bring to the team and expects herself and her teammates to thrive in his system.
“We were with him this weekend and the first week back (from holiday break),” Harris said. “He’s awesome. I agree with everything he has to say. He seems to really know the game and he’s really passionate. He’s working hard with us, so I’m really excited to see how we do this spring and this fall. We are working great as a team right now and hopefully that just keeps up.”
Harris will most likely be taking on a bigger role next season as the most experienced forward on the Bobcats roster following the graduation of some seniors. She believes that she can excel under Rodgers because he is running a similar system to that of her club team.
“Hopefully, I will fit in great (to Rodgers’ system),” Harris said. “He has me checking and turning with the ball and holding off people, which I would say I’m pretty good at, so hopefully, I can keep doing that.”
Harris said she’s hoping that with the new crop of freshman coming in the fall that the forwards in the group can catch on quickly, allowing them play off of one another successfully.
In the classroom, Harris has made the adjustments to college life after getting her first semester under her belt. She is majoring in exercise physiology.
Now settled in to Athens fully, Harris hopes that she and her teammates can excel on the field as well. Under a new coach and in a new system in which Harris can thrive, she hopes the team can contend for Mid-American Conference titles and even make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.