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Gritty Harriman ready to lead North on another playoff run

Photo: Craig Cappy North Gwinnett's Lauren Harriman kicks the ball during a game this season.

Photo: Craig Cappy North Gwinnett's Lauren Harriman kicks the ball during a game this season.

The day after scoring the game-winning goal and penalty kick, North Gwinnett's Lauren Harriman was at practice doing sit ups on the sideline.

As her teammates went through agility drills, ran sprints and game strategy, Harriman couldn't stand to be on the sideline watching with a hurt ankle.

So the North Gwinnett senior sat down and started knocking out sit ups.

"I don't like sitting around," Harriman said. "I like doing stuff and being part of a team and put in some effort."

Harriman's grit and determination is what helped her score the winning goal against Brookwood. It's also a big reason why North has made deep playoff runs the last few years. With a healthy Harriman, the Bulldogs seek a third trip to the state finals.

"She's got an engine and a motor that doesn't stop. She's always working hard," first-year North Gwinnett coach Erik Crawford said. "She's a leader for these girls. Vocally, she gets everybody pumped up and ready to play. She does a lot by example, busting her butt."

Against state-ranked Brookwood, the 5-foot-2 Harriman had an assist and a goal during regulation. She scored with 25 seconds left in the second overtime to force penalty kicks. In PKs, it came down to Harriman and the Georgia State signee drilled the game winner.

Even more impressive, she did it all on an injured ankle.

"I think if people saw that, people will realize she will do anything she can and won't give up ever," Crawford said.

North Gwinnett won the Class AAAAA state championship in 2010 when Harriman was a sophomore. As a junior, Harriman was plagued by a knee injury. She scored a hat trick in the first round playoff game against Etowah and had both scores in the second round win over Milton. Her knee injury forced her to miss the quarterfinal game and she was never at full strength again for the final two playoff games, including the state finals loss to Harrison. She finished the season with 13 goals and seven assists.

"I think that definitely messed up my play a little bit," Harriman said.

Harriman says her knee is healthy, it's just a matter of getting her nagging ankle injury healed.

Her heroics against Brookwood stopped a two-game losing skid. Now North has won three of its last four as it heads into Region 7-AAAAA play this week. Harriman is the team's leading scorer with six from her center midfield position. She also has two assists.

"I didn't want to lose again, three games in a row, because we've never done that," Harriman said.

North Gwinnett has been the county's top girls soccer program in recent years. The Bulldogs have reached the quarterfinals since Harriman's freshman year and have a 55-9 record.

Abby Groth, the Daily Post's Player of the Year, last season is gone. So is longtime head coach Mark Karen. Despite so many successful playoff runs, the Bulldogs weren't even ranked in the top 10 to start the season.

Add that to last year's state finals loss and it's given Harriman and her teammates plenty of motivation for the season.

"Definitely, we're out to prove something," Harriman said. "We lost those really good players, but we have some good returning players. We're looking to prove it wasn't just that senior class."