It all started in the backyard, with five simple words.
“Columbia, get in the goal!”
And four-year-old Columbia Harkrader did just that, serving that role repeatedly for the many backyard soccer matches between the Harkrader siblings and cousins.
Now a freshman at Louisa County High School, Harkrader hasn’t left her place between the posts. Of the 17 members of LCHS’ girls varsity soccer team this year, Harkrader is the lone ninth-grader, and she’s thriving despite high school sports’ perceived culture of upperclassmen leadership.
“It’s fun. There’s a lot of pressure about being a goalie, and for most people, that’s really hard,” Harkrader said. “On penalty kicks, it’s one-on-one and everybody is looking at you. But there’s that adrenaline that comes with it. For a forward, scoring a goal comes with it. For a goalie, it’s kind of the same way by saving a really high shot or diving.”
Harkrader’s performance during her inaugural season of varsity competition has been adrenaline-filled, both for her and the audience alike. Whether it’s from her diving saves – she’s almost guaranteed to make 15 to 20 of them a game – or booming punts, Harkrader has been one of the biggest highlights during a 4-7 season for Louisa this year.
“I think she has done phenomenal in goal for us,” Louisa head coach Kristi Barsby said. “She’s boosted the confidence of our defense. She’s made fantastic saves and kept us in a majority of our games…It’s good having her back there.”
Having a Harkrader starring on the pitch has been the status quo for various Louisa County soccer programs over the past decade or so. Harkrader’s older sister, Rosemary and older brother, Lakey, both played for four years at Louisa County High School, and her four cousins – Mary-Hannah, Clyde, Nathan and Callom – were active in recreation leagues and travel teams throughout their youth as well.
Currently, Harkrader is joined on the field by her older sister, Lacy, who has been her teammate since childhood.
“With our cousins, we played a lot in the backyard,” Harkrader said. “Afternoons after school, Lacy and I would play a lot while we waited for Lakey and Rosemary to come home from school.”
And it was during those pickup games at home that Harkrader found her haven. Though she experimented with various different positions during her time in the Louisa Area Soccer Association while playing under her father, Rex, Harkrader couldn’t find the same thrill in the field that she could in the goal.
You see, Harkrader craves saves, not sprints.
“Sometimes, I see [players on the field] running full-field sprints every two minutes and I think, ‘Yea, I’m kind of glad I’m back here,’” Harkrader said with a laugh. “Being a goalie comes more naturally to me. I’ve never been a huge fan of running.”
To read the entire story, see the May 8 edition of The Central Virginian.