Ex-Norwin soccer standout Emily Harrigan makes impact for nationally ranked Rutgers
Norwin played North Allegheny for the WPIAL Class AAAA girls soccer championship Thursday night, and Emily Harrigan intently watched the match from East Brunswick, N.J.
When broadcasters mentioned Norwin’s 2017 state championship team, Harrigan took notice. After all, she played a key role in the run, earning Tribune-Review Player of the Year honors in the process.
“Hearing them talk about our team shows what type of impact we made,” Harrigan said.
Harrigan’s impact at Norwin was considerable. She played in the 2017 High School All-American game, was a two-time all-state selection and scored 93 goals with 61 assists in her four years. The Knights featured so much college-bound talent in ’17, they were the nation’s top-ranked team for a stretch of the season by Top Drawer Soccer.
So it should not be a surprise Harrigan is part of another ranked team with postseason aspirations.
The redshirt freshman is a key piece for No. 16 Rutgers, which earned the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Scarlet Knights opened the postseason with a 1-0 win against seventh-seeded Indiana to advance to the semifinals.
“This is Big Ten soccer, so I’d say being No. 16 in the country here definitely means more than being No. 1 in high school, as cool as that was, because of the talent at this level.” Harrigan said. “But I won’t forget about what we did (at Norwin).”
It took longer than expected, but Harrigan is doing things for Rutgers (15-2-2, 8-2-1), which tied program records for regular-season and conference wins this season.
She started the team’s first eight matches, scoring her first collegiate goal Sept. 5 during a 4-1 win against Hofstra. Her first assist came in the regular-season finale, a 3-2 win against Michigan State.
Harrigan figured to be a key contributor last season, but she suffered a torn left hamstring in Rutgers’ season opener.
“It was an emotional roller-coaster. There were good days and bad days,” she said. “I wondered, ‘Where would I be if I didn’t get this injury?’ I was coming off a very successful high school season. I was on a high, but last year was not what I expected.”
More adversity awaited Harrigan.
She started this season as a midfielder, an adjustment for the longtime forward. Things were going well. Then, 35 minutes into the conference season, Harrigan aggravated her hamstring injury during a 2-0 win against Minnesota.
Harrigan missed four matches, returning to play 8 minutes Oct. 11 against Iowa. Her playing time gradually increased during the regular season, capping with a 33-minute appearance against Michigan State.
“I really wanted to return against Penn State. I kept saying, ‘I wanna play. I wanna play,’ ” she said. “But I had to make the decision that I wasn’t ready. It was tough because I really wanted to play, and since I came back, I’ve been getting more playing time.”
Harrigan returned to the starting lineup for the Big Ten Tournament, another testament to her competitive drive that has impressed teammates and coaches.
“She worked so hard in the offseason, and she is playing with so much confidence right now,” Rutgers associate head coach Meghan Ryan Nemzer said. “We expect her to continue to contribute and have an impact this postseason. She is a fierce competitor, a leader and an unbelievable teammate.”
And, like she did at Norwin, Harrigan wants to win championships.
“We want to be the first team at Rutgers to win the Big Ten,” she said. “Each year, it seems like we’re setting a new standard here. … I know I have a lot of time left in my career here, but I’ve learned you can’t take it for granted because it goes by so quickly.”