DENVER – Former University of Denver centerback Sam Harder (Centennial, Colo.) scored on her professional debut with WFC Ramat Hasharon in the Israeli Women’s Premier League on Tuesday in her side’s 6-0 win over Bnei Sakhnin.
After having her free transfer request denied by FIFA until the transfer window opened again, Harder was only allowed to train with the team until Tuesday night’s match when the January window had been opened and the paperwork could be properly completed.
“It gives you a completely new perspective and a new respect for the game when you are able to train but not play,” Harder said. “It’s been very mentally challenging, but as frustrating as it may have been, it has been good for me. This opportunity forced me out of my comfort zone and forced me to find new ways to help the team win without being able to contribute on the field. I’ve grown as a teammate and leader during this process, and in the end I know the time waiting and waiting has been a blessing.”
Following their win on Tuesday, WFC Ramat Hasharon sits fifth in the table with seven matches left to play.
With the move overseas came a move in position for the Arapahoe High School product, who has now spent time training in the central midfield and even at forward.
“I never thought I’d see the day where I got to play up top, but I am loving it so far,” Harder added. “It’s a new challenge for sure, but I’ve already learned a lot from it, and it has been a blast.”
In addition to the move in position, Harder has had to adjust to being given directions in Hebrew, a language barrier that the former Colorado Rush club player has embraced in her experience in Israel.
“Listening to instructions during practice, team meetings and pregame speeches in Hebrew is obviously a challenge, but luckily a lot of my teammates speak at least some English to give me a general idea of what was said,” Harder continued. “It’s been an adjustment on the field too. I’ve always been a very vocal player and I like to organize a lot (that’s the centerback in me), so trying to do that with players that have to translate English in their head first has been an adjustment. With that said, it’s been fun trying to pick up on certain words and challenging myself to figure things out even when they aren’t explained.”
On top of playing with her first professional contract in Israel, Harder has had to opportunity to share this experience with former Colorado Rush teammate Denali Murnan.
“Having a familiar face right off the bat made the transition to life here so much easier,” Harder said. “She had been here for two months before I got here, so she really helped get me settled in and help make me feel a little more at home. Having the opportunity to live here with someone I know has allowed us to take advantage of some of our days off to go explore the country together. Our friendship has grown tremendously over here.”
In her Denver career, Harder was a four-time all-conference selection and a two-time all-region selection. Harder finished with 86 CAPS, making 85 starts and playing the most minutes in Denver’s Division I history with 7,666. The Denver centerback and primary set piece taker finished with 24 points on six goals and 12 assists, including three game-winning goals. Harder was part of a 2014 senior class that finished as the country’s 11th winningest class that season.
“The international experience has been life changing, and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better country to start my professional career in,” Harder said. “When we are not on the field or in the gym training, my roommate and I are out exploring the next amazing site on our list. In a month and a half we’ve had the opportunity to visit the Dead Sea, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and we were able to visit Nazareth and Bethlehem around Christmas time, enjoying a massive parade through the streets.”
In October, Harder’s former Pioneer teammate Kristen Hamilton came on as an extra time substitute for the Western New York Flash in the NWSL Final, a match the Flash won 3-2 on penalties after drawing 2-2 after 120 minutes. Hamilton has made 25 career appearances for the Western New York Flash.
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