Favorite athlete: Mal Pugh
Favorite team: U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
Favorite memory competing in sports: Beating CB South in PKs in the semifinals to advance to the state tournament and play in the district final.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I got megged three times in one game.
Music on iPod: Alternative, Hip Hop – a mix of everything
Future plans: Win a national championship at Kutztown University and major in psychology
Words to live by: “Nothing is over until you stop trying” and “be a go-getter that goes and gets.”
One goal before turning 30: Have a family and a successful job.
One thing people don’t now about me: On game day, I always eat Reese’s big cups.
Savanna Harrison needed only to look at her cleats.
"Event + Reaction = Outcome"
Two simple messages, one on each foot, both serving a constant reminder to the Pennridge senior to not dwell on a mistake or a bad play. Harrison is her own biggest critic, analytical of her play and her effort, sometimes almost to a fault, so a couple messages in pen were there to make her pick her head right back up if she ever let it drop.
Most positions on a soccer pitch have some stat to measure them. Goalkeepers have saves, defenders the number of shots allowed, forwards and attacking midfielders have their goals and assists. A player like Harrison isn't defined by stats, she didn't have many goals or assists in her high school career, but the SOL Continental Conference champion Rams wouldn't have been the same team without her.
"She's the kid that wants her team to succeed," Rams coach Audrey Anderson said. "She's just a really good kid all-around."
Harrison started playing the game when she was four or five, and in the beginning, she was a goalkeeper of all things. As time went on, she started playing club soccer, eventually teaming up with many of the girls she would become teammates with at Pennridge like Erin Stevenson, Olivia Fernandez, Katie Fischer and on and on.
Anderson was their coach and they were a good team. So good in fact, that Harrison almost never had anything to do in the net and she was bored, longing to be more involved. So, at 11 years old, Savanna Harrison made a bold choice, one that would change the course of her soccer career.
She asked Anderson to come out of the net and become a field player.
"It was a hard transition, I was definitely behind on where I should have been because I played full-time in the back of the net and didn't play on the field," Harrison said. "Once I switched, I had to work hard to be where the rest of the girls were. To me, that's what makes it kind of cool, that I was able to catch back up with them and compete with them."
At first, Harrison recalled Anderson being a little skeptical because she herself wasn't totally sure it was the move she wanted to make. But she got her chance, trying to play as a forward, then an outside midfielder before settling into a center midfield role, one with defensive tendencies.
Among the Rams, Harrison was far from the most flashy. Where Stevenson could rampage her way through the middle of the park, Fischer could hit screamers from 25-plus yards or Dani Meenan could fly up the flank and play in a cross, Harrison had several things that set her apart.
"The thing that's so great about Sav is she rarely loses the ball," Anderson said. "She wasn't a goal scorer, but if you gave Savanna the ball, she wasn't going to turn it over and nobody was going to take it from her. If they did, that meant they were a very good, strong player."
She also reads the game impeccably well, planning her next move before she's even received the ball from a teammate. Coaches love to scream for their players to switch the field and that was something that Harrison had to learn, but over the last two years, she became really good at.
It was something Anderson stressed to them all the way back to their days as a club team. Harrison thinks her awareness is a mix of having years of chemistry with her teammates and just a natural sense of what the next, right play is.
"Statistics don't really do it justice for a midfielder," Harrison said. "When a forward scores, they get all the recognition, people don't always see the behind-the-scenes of what goes into it. I think that's motivating in a way. You know it built from the back and that you were able to distribute the ball and get it up to the forwards, so although no one sees the hard work midfielders put it, it's amazing to know you contributed to putting the ball in the back of the net.
"It's kind of addicting. You want to keep doing it, whether you're recognized for it or not."
Remember, Harrison has only been playing this position for about six years, and it is one college teams sometimes struggle to fill adequately. What it all comes back to is work ethic.
Harrison has that in droves.
"I think it's my background, starting as a goalie, I knew I needed to work hard to get where I wanted to be," Harrison said. "Whether I was where I wanted to be, I've never really been satisfied with myself, there was something I've always wanted to improve in. Besides that, I had a ton of inspiration around me on the team."
Anderson said she never had to worry about Harrison showing up to practice ready to work. Nobody was harsher on Harrison than Harrison was, and that even extended to the classroom, where she's a straight-A student and part of the National Honor Society.
No game better exemplifies everything about Harrison than the Rams' second meeting with CB South this past fall. Pennridge had lost the first meeting but was on its home field for this one, and Harrison, despite not scoring, was a whirlwind on the pitch, doing so much in an eventual 2-1 win.
But she didn't see it that way.
"She's a small kid, she's not a goal scorer, but she'll create so many chances for us and she saved us so many times in that game," Anderson said. "At halftime, she was almost having an anxiety attack. I asked her what was wrong and she said 'oh, I'm playing so bad.' I had to stop and tell her, 'Are you kidding me? You're the smallest kid out there and you keep coming out with the ball.' She was battling with Aleksa Peev out there and winning the ball."
"We were sitting on the ground, I was a little freaked out because it was such a big game and I was getting in my own head a little bit," Harrison said. "I wasn't having the best game, I thought, but Aud pointed out I had girls from South covering me and I was able to dribble up and get past them. I focused on myself and trying to get the ball up the field and Aud really helped me see that, especially when I was being down on myself."
Harrison is continuing her career at Kutztown, a national semifinalist this past fall and like the rest of her story, getting there involved some self-doubt and a lot of hard work. Anderson felt that as soon as Harrison made the move out of goal and to the field, she had the potential to be a college player.
For Harrison, the idea first came around eighth grade, when her club team started going to showcase tournaments. She had interest, but the process was stressful and finding the right place was not an easy task.
"I definitely doubted myself, in 11th grade, I didn't even think I would be going anywhere," Harrison said. "I was picky with where I wanted to be, I couldn't see myself fitting in and I felt very disappointed and let down and mad at myself."
A camp visit to Shippensburg over the summer turned the process around. She met the Kutztown coaches there and clicked, and the rest of the pieces soon fell into place. Harrison would commit a few days later, and after telling her family, she called Anderson and assistant coach Stevi Parker to tell them.
"She called me, she was so happy and she asked me if I was happy for her," Anderson said. "I told her, 'Savanna, of course I'm happy and I'm so proud of you.' She's that person that always tends to look at the negative, but she was just so upbeat and excited to go there. I'm excited to go there and watch her play."
Asked what she would have to do to keep growing at the next level, Harrison's answer was, well, Harrison. She said she planned to ask all her past coaches what the weakest areas of her game are and then spend the months until she leaves for college training "harder than ever" to get better at those areas.
While Harrison didn't have numbers that jumped off the page, her impact was undeniable as she was an easy pick for First-Team SOL All-Continental, something that had been a goal of hers going into the season. Maybe she didn't always realize her impact or how she was influencing the game, but plenty of people around her did.
That's why she started to put those two messages on her shoes. Her head wasn't supposed to drop and if it did, they were there to make it snap back up and get right back in the game.
"I wouldn't want to have played at any other high school, or have had any other coach," Harrison said. "Pennridge has been so special, it made my high school career something to remember. I would wake up during the season, and having something to look forward to, whether it was a hard practice or even if we had to do fitness, I still enjoyed it. I enjoyed every moment of it and didn't take it for granted. It was an experience and I wouldn't trade it for the world."