Harper becomes first Wildcat to commit to play Division I Soccer
Conner Harper continued his historic and memorable summer by announcing that he has committed to play collegiate soccer at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He made the announcement at the Kentucky Youth Soccer Reception in which he accepted the 2018 Ky Youth Soccer Player of the Year honors.
Harper is the first Wildcat Soccer player to commit to play at the NCAA Division I level which is the highest collegiate level of play. He joins Katie Gaskins, who is presently at Murray State, as the only two Pendleton County soccer players to play DI soccer.
“The coaching staff is just amazing,” explained Harper on his decision to head north in continuing his soccer career. He had also been considering Northern Kentucky University and Bowling Green University.
“Jake Slemker, the head coach, is so nice and genuine. Their soccer program is really good,” Harper added.
Playing in the Horizon League, the Raiders finished the season 10-7-1 in 2017 with victories over Cincinnati, Bowling Green, and NKU.
Despite the 30-man 2018 roster having just one senior on it, Harper expects the opportunity to step in and play right away.
“I was told I could get playing time as a freshman,” he said.
The Pendleton Wildcat senior star is a unique player that excels in both parts of the game that generally has specialization.
Harper is an outstanding defender who starred for the Kentucky Olympic Developmental team this past year in their tour of England. He was also a member of the same team that played and toured Holland in 2016.
Kentucky Youth Soccer Director Adrian Parrish, who grew up playing in the soccer-crazed England, told Harper it was the best he had seen him play.
“He did the team well while in England and was one of our standout players,” said Parrish who indicating the opposing coaches would comment to him about the outstanding play of his defender from Pendleton County.
While showing the world he is an elite defender, Harper takes on a different role for his high school team. One of scorer. He was 16th in KHSAA rankings last year in goals scored.
“He is the most versatile player I’ve ever coached. You just don’t see many players able to do that,” his high school coach and father Aaron Harper said about Conner’s ability to defend and score at a high level.
“His knowledge of the game along with the skill set, are superb. He’s a coach on the field,” he added.
The biomedical engineering major self-describes his play as “a player that will play anywhere.” He thinks he will be playing right back and defend at Wright State with the ability to get up the field and attack.
That strategy and being a coach on the field matches his desired major which applies design concepts to the medical world in helping treatment of the human body.
The Harper family is well-known in the Pendleton County soccer circles with dad having been a star for the Wildcats and Uncle Trent being a tough scorer for Pendleton. Mom, Becca, also roamed the pitch for the Ladycats and her hustling, aggressive play in seen in her children.
“I am extremely proud of Conner. He has practiced and trained year round for the majority of the last 3-4 years with a personal goal to be the best player he could be and to play in college,” she said. “It will be great to have him close to home and to be able to attend most if not all of his games.”
Dad echoed mom’s words. “He’s worked so hard over the years and now has the opportunity to achieve that goal. I’m so proud of him that it’s hard to express it in words. I’m excited to see what the future holds for him.”
The 2018 Ky Youth Soccer Player of the Year award just adds to the litany of honors Conner has racked up. He was selected to attend the 2017 and 2018 Midwest Regional camp, 2016 Regional Super Y League team, 2016 Super Y League National team, 2018 MRL Premier 1 champions, 2018 FCCincinnati reserve match participant, 10th Region all-tournament team, Cincinnati Enquirer All Star team, Northern Kentucky First team, Kentucky All State Team, and several high school awards.
While Conner can relax with the collegiate decision made, there is still one goal that he has in front of him.
“My goals are to beat my brother’s record of 44 goals and win regional,” he stated.
Brother, Aven, has the single goal record for the Wildcats at 44 goals. It is squarely in front of the goal-oriented Wildcat striker. He had ten goals in the three Bluegrass games and two scrimmages in the preseason and set to achieve another of his goals.
The Wildcats kick off the regular season at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 16 at Veterans Field versus Campbell County one of the top teams in the 10th Region.