The Ohio Valley Conference will welcome the next member of a long list of Aussies to play in the league in 2020, with Victoria’s Ashleigh Harvie signing with Eastern Illinois. With players such as Murray State duo Harriet Withers and Nyomi Devine, as well as Southeast Missouri State’s Hayley Abbott and Siena Senatore, the conference has been a successful landing spot for Australians for many seasons.
Harvie comes to Charleston from FC Alamein, and in fact becomes the second former FC Alamein player to join a team in Illinois in recent seasons. Ashleigh Lefevre plays just 50 miles up the road for Illinois, in Champaign. Harvie has made 26 NPL Victoria first team appearances, but every one of those appearances came as a Bayside United player, having made her debut in 2017, just one season removed from playing predominantly in the Under 15 competition in 2016.
Harvie also becomes the third member of the 2019 Australian Schoolgirls side to commit to a college, alongside Molly Arens (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) and Courtney Butlion (Eastern Florida State), but Harvie also toured the US twice as part of the Australian Schoolgirls side in 2018 and 2019. Those teams featured players including 2019 College Matildas Freshman of the Year Eliza Ammendolia, Sophomore of the Year Indianna Asimus, UMBC pairing Abi Jordan and Teal Kilbride, and Alabama State freshman Grace Norbury. The 2018 team won the SoCal Winter Cup, whilst the 2019 team secured the Dallas Cup trophy on penalties, putting Harvie in some esteemed company and hopefully pointing to future success in college.
With Eastern Illinois’ attack proving insipid and showing little sign of significant improvement in recent years, defence may be the best way to turn around the Panthers’ 4-10-4 record from 2019, and that is where Harvie will provide additional strength. Three of Eastern Illinois’ six overtime games last season came with the score after 90 minutes sitting at 1-1 or 2-2, and all three ended in draws or losses. The additional odd clean sheet here or there could quickly change the fortunes of this team, even if the attack doesn’t start firing. If Harvie can replicate the success of fellow OVC defenders Devine and Abbott, things could quickly start looking up for the Panthers.