Audrey Harding makes history as career nears an end

Zachary Kilby, Sports Editor

WILMINGTON, North Carolina – UNCW’s Audrey Harding netted her 20th career goal in Sunday’s game against No. 10 Hofstra (12-1, 4-0 Colonial Athletic Association) and became just the 10th woman in program history to score 20 or more goals.

Harding’s record-setting goal came off a free kick sent by senior defender Carey Allard with 14:41 remaining in the match. Sunday’s goal against the Pride marked Harding’s fifth score up to that point in 2021 after netting a pair of goals in two games earlier this season. The graduate forward extended her scoring total to 21 during Thursday’s win against Drexel (5-5-2, 1-2-1 CAA).

According to Harding, the feat came as a bit of a surprise but was a moment she will never forget. Even after clinching her spot on UNCW’s all-time scoring list, Harding is determined to keep improving her game to help the Seahawks (8-2-1, 4-1 CAA) get back to where they want to be at the end of the season.

“I am so honored to have received this news…I had no idea,” Harding said. “It is amazing to hear, but I am still focused on being the best I can be for my team and myself to help us make it back to the CAA finals.”

Harding’s 21 career goals rank eighth on UNCW’s all-time list, tying her with Serenity Waters (2014-17) and Jenny Cauble (2004-07). With four games remaining, Harding is on pace to surpass Michelle Doherty’s (1998-2000) 22 career goals which would place her seventh in program history.

Although Harding’s work ethic has played a big role in her success on the field, the Akron native credits her teammates and coaches as the main reasons for her accomplishments.

“My teammates and coaches are so supportive of any accomplishment I have received,” Harding said. “They are all so awesome for making me feel like I deserved these accomplishments…I could not have gotten them without their help.”

In addition to a strong work ethic and support from her peers, Harding’s pure talent on the field helps separate her from everyone else. The forward’s natural scoring ability and knowledge of the game have aided her in reaching this point in her career.

“I think dribbling and beating players, as well as my awareness of the game, separate me from my competitors,” Harding said. “Since I was little, [dribbling] is something I have been able to do well, and it has progressed as I have gotten older.”

Harding is one of two graduate students on the Seahawk roster this year. After returning from a shortened 2020 senior season due to COVID-19, Harding believes her experience pushing through adversity and thriving in chaotic situations will help a Seahawk squad that is welcoming 12 newcomers this season.

Coming off a loss in the 2020 CAA Championship, Harding’s experience and knowledge will certainly help a young Seahawk team heading into the homestretch of 2021.

“I must be more of a leader on and off the field, especially with the knowledge and experience I have acquired throughout my five years here,” Harding said. “I believe that I bring a certain style of play and experience to the team. As a program, we want to redeem ourselves from last season.”

This season will be Harding’s last wearing a UNCW jersey and it is a thought that is becoming more sentimental to her as the season progresses. As her career nears the end, Harding is focused on cherishing every moment from now until the final whistle.

“I know that soon it will be my last time putting on my number 18 jersey for UNCW,” Harding said. “As each practice and game goes by, I seem to get more sentimental knowing that my time playing soccer will end quicker than I want. There is something about this team that makes it hard to leave…this team holds a special place in my heart.”

Harding and the Seahawks will head to Harrisonburg, VA to face off against James Madison (4-7-1, 1-2 CAA) on Oct. 17 at 1 p.m.