From the University of North Carolina, to St. Louis Athletica, to the Washington Freedom.
The WPS rookie and former starting goalkeeper of 20-time NCAA College Cup champion UNC Tar Heels spoke with Bleacher Report about what happened in St. Louis and what lies ahead for her in DC.
Kat Galsim: How has training been so far with the Freedom goalkeepers?
Ashlyn Harris: It's been great. Erin [McLeod] has just been such a doll ever since I showed up. She has been really accepting of me, making sure I have everything I need. She's always right there and calling me and making sure I feel comfortable. She's been great.
The staff has been incredible as well. It's been a really smooth transition for me when it could have easily been pretty tough coming in this late into the season. So, I'm pleased with that. The administration part has just been smooth, and I couldn't really ask for anything more.
KG: And you've been to DC before, to compete in different matches. But you've never lived here, right?
AH: Yeah, I've been here for games. I went to college in North Carolina, so something about being in the East Coast is home for me. I grew up in Florida, so it's been great.
Clearly I've never lived here but it's beautiful here right now. It's obviously pretty hot, but that's what I'm used to.
KG: How did you find out about Athletica folding?
AH: When we found out, we were pulled in together and just pretty much were told that the team was folding, and there's nothing they can do. In terms of contracts, that needs to be sorted out internally, and just kind of, they talked about us heading to Atlanta and playing against the Beat.
That would be an exhibition game, and it was our choice if we wanted to go. Everything had already been set up at that point. It was on a Thursday. So we just decided that it would be best for us not to go in terms of insurance reasons, and we just pretty much all parted ways and everyone went off and started speaking to other teams and agents to get the word out. We all became free agents.
So, it was kind of a mess, everyone was kind of panicking, and there were a lot of things that needed to be sorted out with the WPS in terms of whether there would be extra roster spots, whether the salary cap would increase, whether international slots would increase.
So, there was a lot of unanswered questions, and we just kinda had to sit around and wait.
A lot of people just packed up and went home. It was an opportunity to be with family for a couple of days and just kinda had to figure it out from there, and wait until someone contacted you about potential contracts and getting picked up by another team.
KG: Obviously, you were new in Athletica, but I'm sure you formed some bonds in that team. So, how did you feel when you found out about the folding?
AH: Oh, I was devastated. I was so upset, I mean, I was so close to my team. We had so much fun together.
We had heard so many rumors going on about financial situations. But everyday we showed up, everyday we practiced our hearts out, we rallied together, and we kind of just continued to enjoy our time together and we were very professional about it.
It was really difficult to say goodbye. It wasn't like a happy ending when we kinda just picked up and left.
KG: It must have been a great opportunity for you to have trained with (U.S. Women's National Team starting goalkeeper) Hope Solo and (U.S. Women's National Team goalkeeper coach) Paul Rogers in St. Louis.
AH: Yeah, that was so ideal for me. It was so ideal for a rookie to have that kind of environment. It was like a dream come true. That was pretty much like being in a national team camp for six months, you know? You can't replace that type of experience.
So, that was just really hard for me to walk away from. I was in the best training environment in, arguably, anywhere.
KG: After the announcement about Athletica, I guess Freedom tried to contact you afterwards, showing their interest?
AH: I got a couple of calls from a couple of different places, and I kind of just had to figure out what was best for me, what move and what transition would be good for me, where I would develop the most. I had to make some decisions, and D.C. just seemed like the best fit for me.
So, I just went with my instinct and just kind of ended up deciding to come here, and it's been great so far.
KG: What are your expectations playing with this new team?
AH: I mean, I expect coming here that we are gonna be in the playoffs. Every team I'm on, I expect to win. I expect to push my teammates as much as I can, and I expect them to do the same with me.
Clearly, I'm not at the professional level at this point so I expect to get better, and that's what this is all about. So, those are some of my expectations, just like with any professional athlete.
KG: What do you think you can contribute to this team?
AH: I think I have a really good work ethic. Obviously, I'm gonna have to contribute in ways other than starting and playing, because Erin McLeod's phenomenal and she's a starting goalkeeper here.
But I can push her everyday, and she can push me. And I know we're both really competitive, both very similar, and that creates an extraordinary training environment.
So in terms of just pushing my team and pushing her, doing what I can to contribute even when I'm not playing is important. Just continue to keep a positive attitude and just enjoy every minute of this, because as we've seen in St. Louis, it can come to an end fairly quick.
KG: The game on Saturday is against the Chicago Red Stars. How would you predict the game would go?
AH: I think Chicago's a fantastic team. I think they have incredible players. And I know they haven't posted the best results, but I'd be lying if I said they're not one of the best teams in the league. Because they are.
So I don't think it's gonna be an easy game. I think they are very physical, they fight really hard, and they have a new coach.
I mean, who knows? That could completely change their whole mentality and attitude.
I'm expecting us to win. I'm expecting us to play well. I think this team has a unique system, and I think they have a great bond and great chemistry, which is just clear with the little time I've been with them. And that could take a team a long way.
And they move the ball well, they move the ball really well. I think it's gonna be a tough game and clearly I'm hoping our side pulls a "W", but it's not gonna be an easy game at all.
See if Ashlyn's prediction comes true when the Washington Freedom host the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, June 12, 7 PM at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
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