Off-the-wall Questions and Answers, Queries and Anecdotes from U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
Harris is one of the rising young stars on the world scene after performing so well at the 2002 U-19 Women's World Championship at the tender age of 16. Now, she is in a different role as a leader of the 2004 U-19s as they roll towards CONCACAF Qualifying for the 2004 U-19 FIFA Women's World Championship. Harris, who was on track to become a professional surfer before dedicating herself full-time to soccer, takes a moment to talk about her experiences with the U-19s, tasty waves and how former U-19 teammate Heather O'Reilly got the better of her in paintball.CC: What's the best beach to surf in SoCal?
AH: "The only place I've been is in San Diego, but I don't remember the beach. There were good waves there, about three or four footers, but I heard you can get some good waves in Huntington Beach. I don't have time to surf when I am in California because I am always at a training camp."
CC: Is there really any good surfing in Florida? Be honest.
AH: "Of course there is! Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach are chill. When there are waves there, they break really good because of the reef."
CC: Did you ever watch that reality show "Surf Girls"? You could take those girls easy.
AH: "First off, those girls spent most of the time crying. They needed to get over themselves because they were scared to surf six-foot waves. I couldn't even bear to watch that. It was horrible."
CC: If you got your arm bitten off by a shark like young surfing star Bethany Hamilton did in Hawaii, is there any way you'd get back out there on the board like she has?
AH: "Let's put it this way, if I ever even saw a shark when I was out there, I would be scared to even get in a bathtub, let alone get back in the ocean to be shark food.”
CC: Word is you're also good at paintball. What's your best paintball story?
AH: "Heather O'Reilly and I were hanging out in Orlando and decided to go play paintball laser tag. We are two very competitive girls and there were about 15 little boys in there and we were thrashing everyone. The funniest moment was when the countdown to the end of the game started, and she was beating me by two points, and we both tore around a corner on a full-out sprint and ran smack into each other – hard – and just broke down laughing. She beat me by two points, but we both walked out of their sweating. We weren't going to let any little boys beat us."
CC: Do you think you'll ever play in front of almost 50,000 people again like you did in the '02 U-19 World Championship final?
AH: "I hope to. I want to. I love that environment. I love coming into a stadium and not being able to hear someone yelling at me from 10 yards away. There are probably going to be some huge crowds if we play Canada in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, so I am looking forward to that."
CC: What does that do to your nerves when you walk out for warm-ups in front of a hostile crowd that big?
AH: "Nervous is a good thing for me. When I really care about something, that's when I get really nervous. I just get in my zone and get focused and worry about what I have to do on the field and not get caught up in the crowd yelling at us."
CC: What's your best off-the-field memory of your time with that group?
AH: "There were just so many good times, but I have to say I will never forget when Megan Kakadelas thought that the Australian fans, who were yelling ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!’ all game, were cheering for Leslie (nicknamed ‘Ozzy’) Osborne."
CC: What was it like going up against the new "triple-edged sword" of Heather O'Reilly, Lindsay Tarpley and Kelly Wilson every day in practice?
AH: "It was nerve-wracking at the beginning, but it helped make me into the player I am today, not only with their play but with their leadership. They just tested my limits every day at practice. They are wonderful people and so talented as players."
AH: "It's got its differences, but the biggest thing is that we are all in it for one big goal – to make it to end just like the '02 team did. These girls have the heart and the motivation, so there is nothing really that different. You are surrounded by 18 of the best teenagers in the country and you are all working toward one goal."
CC: Do you and Rachel Buehler and the other players from the original U-19 squad feel like wise old veterans now having been through all of this before?
AH: “We do actually; and the other girls look up to us because of it. We’ve been through the cycle, and the hard times and the good times, so we are trying to make it better for them so they have a great journey just like we did. I hope we can provide some leadership through qualifying and hopefully onto the World Cup."
CC: Last Halloween the entire team dressed up in costumes for that day’s training, and you were the big hit with your Spongebob Squarepants get-up, complete bright yellow undies. How many times have you worn this since then – less than or greater than 10 times?
AH: "WAY more than 10 times. You must understand; it's not that I have just one pair, I have like four pairs. In fact, I have one pair just dedicated for games."
CC: What was the worst or most restricting costume from that day and that game?
AH: "The worst costumes were the sumo ballet dancers that the staff dressed up in, but I have to give them credit for going all the way on that one. The one that might have been the most difficult to play in was Yael Averbuch's cow suit. She had udders coming off her. That was hilarious, but how are you supposed to play with udders?"
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