Sitting with friends in the senior lounge at St. Andrew’s Episcopal High School in Washington, D.C., Maryland women’s soccer forward Jarena Harmon contemplated where she would commit to play in college.
Having difficulty deciding, she took the advice of her high school and travel coaches, who told her, “Do what makes you happy.” So, she picked out of a hat, choosing Pittsburgh.
“When it happened, it wasn’t, like, that much of a shock,” Harmon said. “I was already leaning toward that way anyway.”
After leading the Panthers in goals during the 2015 season, Harmon began to second-guess her random choice. The D.C. native wanted to play closer to home.
So Harmon transferred to Maryland. Two years later, she’s a key piece of the Terps offense and will play a bigger role moving forward, with two forwards sidelined.
Following her first season at Pittsburgh, Harmon sent a mass email to schools in the area. Coach Ray Leone, who had just taken over at Maryland, responded.
Harmon said her comfort with Leone was a major reason she transferred. She looked at Northeastern, where Leone’s wife was coaching, during her initial recruitment.
“I came to visit, and then I liked it,” Harmon said. “I already knew Ray. … I had already seen him and his wife before.”
During her first season in College Park, Harmon scored eight goals, the second-highest total on the team. The rest of the squad notched 13 goals combined.
The junior has tallied a goal and an assist in nine appearances this year, spending time at striker along with forwards Mikayla Dayes and Chelsea Jackson. But, with Dayes out for the season and Jackson having missed time with an injury against Rutgers on Sept. 17, Harmon has played a more crucial role.
Harmon left the pitch injured in the same contest as Jackson. After missing Friday’s match at Illinois, she came off the bench against Northwestern on Sunday. Her presence made the Terps (7-2-1) look more dangerous in their eventual 2-0 defeat.
“When the team is lagging a little bit, she just comes on the field and works her butt off and is all over the place,” midfielder Hope Lewandoski said. “Sometimes she brings a spark to our team that we need.”
Now that Harmon is closer to home, she feels more encouragement with more supporters at her games, another factor that validates her decision to transfer.
“I’m just enjoying Maryland soccer as a whole,” Harmon said. “It’s now something I can do with my family and friends that are already in this area.”