Next move will take St. Stephen's soccer standout to Louisiana Tech
Feb 05, 2013 (Menafn - Austin American-Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Jessica Harmon's cellphone number starts with an Alaska area code, her car boasts Texas license plates, and she plans to study engineering at a college in Louisiana.
A senior at St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Harmon has lived in Saudi Arabia, Japan and Alaska. She's also called a few cities and towns in Texas -- Austin, Houston, Borger, Pearland, Cedar Park and Round Rock -- home.
"People always ask me, 'Where are you from?' and it's always an awkward question," she said.
Harmon's next home will be in Ruston, La., where she will play soccer for Louisiana Tech. A 5-foot-6-inch striker for the St. Stephen's academy team, Harmon will sign with the Lady Techsters on Wednesday. She expects to shift to defender in college.
Harmon began playing soccer as a child, and after a few years, she was selected for an all-boys team while her family lived in Japan. (Harmon's stepfather works as a chemical engineer, and his job has taken his family around the world.) After the family moved to Alaska, Harmon joined South Anchorage High's soccer team.
She logged playing time with the varsity as a freshman and a sophomore before becoming a starter for the Lady Wolverines during the 2011 season. During Harmon's junior season, South Anchorage won a state championship. The next year, the Lady Wolverines defended their state title, but Harmon -- who was on the move again -- was no longer with the team.
Harmon's stepfather took a job in Saudi Arabia during her junior year. Her parents gave her three options: move with the family to Saudi Arabia, stay behind in Alaska with her mother or attend a boarding school.
The family eventually settled on sending Harmon to St. Stephen's, but there was one catch. St. Stephen's does not admit senior transfers, and the school's athletic director, Jon McCain, said that during his 20 years at the school, he could recall only one senior who had been allowed to enroll.
So for Harmon to attend St. Stephen's, she would have to repeat her junior year. She initially balked at that idea.
"After they convinced me that it had nothing to do with my intelligence or me, then I was like, 'OK, maybe it's not too bad,' " Harmon said. "Still, a bunch of the kids don't even know that I'm supposed to be in college right now. Once I realized that and it wasn't (about) me, it's not that big of a deal."
The move to Texas allowed Harmon to play soccer in a more competitive environment.
Last year, six St. Stephen's students signed with a collegiate soccer program. This year, two boys, Ben Joseph and Alexis Martinez, will sign with SMU and Rollins College, respectively. Mikey Lopez, a 2011 St. Stephen's graduate, was recently taken by Sporting Kansas City in the Major League Soccer draft.
Harmon said she was initially discouraged when she arrived at St. Stephen's because she was "probably one of the worst girls on the team." But by working with Shane Maguire and Bobby Murphy, the head coaches of the two St. Stephen's academy teams, Harmon regained her confidence.
St. Stephen's, which plays an independent schedule against both private and public schools, is 4-2-2 this season. Harmon has scored five times for the Lady Spartans.
"They've made me truly love the game more than I ever have," she said.
Although eight hours separate them, Harmon gets to talk with her parents on the phone about once a week, and her mother stays in touch through Facebook. She also has grandparents in Elgin and Pflugerville, and her sister attends Texas State.
Twice a year, Harmon visits her parents and younger brother in Saudi Arabia, and her family makes an annual trip to Texas, one that will soon include a stop in Louisiana.
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