The 2021 season was one of change for Erin Houston.
After playing for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, Houston played her first season at Harrison after the academy was shut down due to financial reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was really sad the first two years of my career not being able to play high school,” Houston said. “I was really excited to get the opportunity to be able to play high school. I saw the environment and it was all very competitive and fun, and so I really wanted to be a part of it.”
Not only did Houston play high school soccer for the first time, but she did so at a new position. The former center back moved from defense to forward at the request of Harrison coach Jonathan Gross, who used his newest team member to break down other teams’ defenses.
“She was one of our most dangerous players,” Gross said. “Her unpredictability and the wide range of things she can do makes her so dangerous.”
Houston, who finished the season with nine goals and 10 assists, is the 2021 Cobb County Girls Soccer Player of the Year, as voted on by coaches.
Gross said Houston has an extensive tool kit that she makes use of to keep defenders guessing when she is looking for a shot or a pass. She uses her speed to get behind defenses to attack from up close, and the junior scored a few goals from range with accurate shots.
The versatile facilitator also finds open teammates by pressuring defenders with her dribbling skills and by taking balls out of the air with well-placed passes.
Houston’s field vision contributes significantly to her offensive versatility. Her experience playing center back helps her see the entire field as a forward.
“Being able to see the whole field at center back helped me be able to see the pockets as a forward, because I can always see the forwards on my club team and what pockets they’re able to get in and what they’re able to do,” Houston said.
In her first season at Harrison, Houston helped the Lady Hoyas reach the quarterfinal round of the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs. The playoff run followed an 11-4-2 regular season in which they won the region championship.
Houston was named Region 3AAAAAAA Player of the Year thanks in part to her development as a clutch performer at forward.
“She was really, really important, especially in big games, being that player that either got the goal we needed or got the assists we needed,” Gross said. “As the season progressed, you really saw her embrace this idea that she might be the one who has to win the game, that she might be the one that we were going to depend on.”
Houston was called on in the final 30 seconds of Harrison’s rematch against Walton, the team that handed the Lady Hoyas their only in-region loss earlier in the season. Alana Nesbit won a pass in the box and kicked the ball back to Houston, who took the shot.
Houston’s ball found the back of the net, and the Lady Hoyas held on to win 2-1.
“(Playing forward) was very different at first, but I got a lot more comfortable in that game,” Houston said. “In that moment, I just wanted to win for the team and win for our region championship.”
Houston still has her senior season ahead of her, but her skills on the field and her 4.2 grade-point average are already attracting large college programs. She said she has talked to LSU, Northwestern, Wake Forest and Brown, among others.