There are times when 10th-year St. Andrew’s Episcopal School girls’ soccer coach Glenn Whitman said he thinks Lions striker Jarena Harmon might make an excellent contortionist.
“If she doesn’t put the ball in the net with her foot, it’s any part of her body from ankle to head,” Whitman said of his leading scorer. “She has tremendous control of her body. And she doesn’t get rattled in front of the goal. As someone who gets pushed and prodded every game, she never loses her composure.”
The junior, who transferred from National Cathedral School a year ago, may have caught a few opponents by surprise during a 31-goal 2012 campaign, but Harmon has been the main target for every team’s defense in 2013. Yet somehow the Division I recruit seems completely unfazed by the added pressure with 34 goals in 12 games this fall — the Lions face Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart this afternoon in the first round of the season-ending Independent School League “A” Division girls’ soccer tournament.
“People are going to defend her, teams come up with defensive packages against her,” the 10th-year coach said. “[We just played a team] who boxed her in. They put four girls with a box around her, almost like a box-and-one in basketball. It was effective for a while but she’s going to get through.”
Looking at Harmon’s statistics the past two years it would be easy to make two quick assumptions, that she either racks up a ton of goals against weaker teams or is averse to involving her teammates. But it’s quite the contrary, Whitman said. Harmon just happens to have a knack for scoring that is a rarity among high school athletes these days and joined a St. Andrew’s program in need of a go-to scorer.
It was obvious on Harmon’s first touch of the ball at 2012 tryouts that she was going to be a special player for the Lions, Whitman said. In addition to superior technical ability, Whitman said, she possesses speed with and without the ball like no one he has worked with in 20 years of coaching. And she is a remarkably consistent performer. Harmon has scored at least once in 11 of 12 games played this season, including eight hat tricks (three goals or more). Both she and Whitman credited her desire to win and overcome any obstacle set in front of her for those numbers.
Though Whitman said he believes in honoring individually talented players’ skill level and ability to take on the opposition — soccer is a game of freedom and creativity — Harmon has never lost sight of the fact that she is not one versus 11, he said. Becoming part of Harmon’s scoring has become a source of pride among the Lions, Whitman said, and the Lions’ leader — only the third junior team captain during Whitman’s tenure — strives to involve those around her. Kristin Butler (nine assists) and second-leading scorer Memuna McShane (three goals, eight assists) are two of the Lions’ biggest playmakers alongside Harmon.
The thing to remember, Whitman said, is Harmon doesn’t need high school soccer as she plays year-round at an extremely high level with the nationally-ranked McLean Youth Soccer 96 Force Elite Clubs National League. But Harmon said she relishes the opportunity to represent St. Andrew’s on the pitch, an attitude Whitman said he admires. And she is the type of player that brings attention to the Lions’ small program and makes it a desirable destination for aspiring high school soccer players.
Harmon carries a much heavier load at St. Andrew’s than with McLean but that has helped her grow as an overall soccer player, she and Whitman agreed. But she’s always had the composure in the offensive third to be a top scorer, Whitman said.
“Last year she was a very traditional striker,” Whitman said. “Now she has learned to pull herself away from traffic, away from tight marking, she can score from 30 yards out, she can withdraw back to the midfield when necessary. With her soccer IQ she makes those adjustments without direction. ... Sometimes I feel like she is a contortionist with how she puts the ball into the net.”