Jyllissa Harris was the “Iron-Woman” of South Carolina soccer after an All-American career with the Gamecocks which also saw her break the NCAA record for career minutes played. The Gamecock defender and New Jersey native was selected 22nd overall with the 10th pick in the second round of the National Women’s Soccer League Draft last Thursday by the Houston Dash, where she will be reunited with friend and former South Carolina teammate Ryan Gareis. Harris provides her thoughts on her collegiate career and the challenges ahead as a professional in the latest installment of South Carolina’s “My Signature” series.
Hearing my name called was one of the more surreal moments in my life and my career. It’s just really a culmination of hard work, time, and effort put in by myself and by my large support system. To be able to hear it and be there at that moment was really special. I was very emotional. It’s a moment I won’t forget, forever.
I have dreamed about playing professional soccer since before I can remember. I started playing soccer when I was five. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t dream about that when I was a little kid. I always dreamed about playing in college and then going pro.
Going to a team with my former teammate, and specifically Ryan, I am so over the moon and excited! I love her as a person and a player. It’s all going to be so very new in a soccer-sense and in the sense that I’m moving somewhere I’ve never lived before. It’s like starting college all over again. So, to have somebody there who I know has my best interests in mind, who I can go to with questions and will help me get my feet on the ground, it’s really helpful. It means a lot to be able to play with her again.
Being at South Carolina has been one of my biggest blessings in life. With my teammates, the coaches, and the support staff there, I wouldn’t be a fraction of what I am today as a person or player without them. They’re truly my family, and it’s my second home that I can always go back to.
I remember during my freshman year, and I was in a meeting with (Associate Head Coach) Jamie (Smith), and he said, “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t make you reach your full potential.” With that, I knew he was going to be hard on me, and he was going to hold me accountable, which he did. I’m so grateful for it because I wouldn’t be where I am now without (Head Coach) Shelley (Smith), Jamie, and all of the other staff who were pushing and encouraging me to be the best I could be, every day. They’re really like second parents to me now, and they’re people I will call family forever.
I will definitely have to make adjustments moving up to the next level. The main thing is going to be speed of play. The SEC already has a high speed of play, which is good and will help set me up for success, however, this is the next level where you take the best of the best and put them in one league. I will definitely have to “up” my game. I’ve done well to prepare myself. There is so much experience and talent there, so it is going to be a great learning experience. I’m ready to compete and learn from everybody there.
I’ve heard great things about the Houston culture, so I’m excited for that. South Carolina is my second home. I’ve grown so close with everybody there. I will definitely miss my family there.
There’s not too much time to think in getting ready to move across the country. It’s exciting that way. I’m ready to go.
Ryan Gareis & Jyllissa Harris