Jessie Harper Lives Up To Expectations At Arizona
There is no doubt that Arizona softball has one of the richest histories in the country and has produced some of the most decorated players to ever play the game. Jessie Harper will soon cement her legacy among that long hall of legends.
Even as a young girl growing up in Stevenson Ranch, Calif., she knew she had what it took to be one of the very best.
“When I was a little girl,” Harper said, “I would tell all the boys on the playground, ‘I’m going to play Division I softball. Softball is better than baseball, and I’m going to be better than you. Once I finish my college career, I’m going to play pro softball.’ Thankfully, that part has worked out how I wanted it to, and it is due to a lot of hard work and high expectations.”
She chose to continue her academic and athletic career at the University of Arizona because she knew that Tucson would give her all she needed to grow as a player and a person.
“I came in not knowing what to expect,” Harper said, “but I am more than 100% pleased with my time here at Arizona. I have had the time of my life and I’ve loved every second of it. I’m so thankful for where I am and all that we have accomplished as a team.”
After her original senior season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harper wasn’t going to let the opportunity of finalizing her legacy alongside her fellow senior classmates pass her by. She said that there was never really a doubt in any of their minds that they would all finish it out together in 2021.
Even when they came in as freshmen, Harper knew that they were “one badass class,” taking after the senior class that they got to grow under as freshmen. That class included the likes of Danielle O’Toole, Mo Mercado, Katiyana Mauga, Mandie Perez and more.
Harper looks back on her time learning from those experienced players and hopes to give back in the same way to the current underclassmen on the team today.
“Our freshman class this year is so good,” said Harper. “In about three years, when they’re all seniors, I think you’ll be saying the same things about them that you say about us.”
Arizona’s 2021 senior class is more than battle-tested, and they are ready to fight for what they want this postseason. As the No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, they know they are doing all that they can to end up on top, and if that does not happen, they will be content with all that they gave along the way.
Whether she sets a new NCAA home run record or not or whether Arizona takes home its ninth Women’s College World Series title or not, Harper is grateful for everything that has allowed her and her team to be in a position to chase greatness.
“Something I’ve learned is that I’m giving myself all the opportunities I need to succeed,” Harper said, “and if I don’t succeed, I have to know that I gave my 100% to get there. At the end of the day, as long as my teammates, parents and coaches are proud of me, that’s all that I really ever want.”
After all, getting five years to learn from Mike Candrea has its perks.
Harper says that she cherishes all that Coach Candrea has taught her on the field during her career, but she most values his impact on her character and his desire to become family, even after softball is over.
“He’s taught us to be where our feet are,” Harper said. “Be a good person and be a good player, and do everything you do with passion. Whenever I walk onto the field, he’s always the first person I see in the dugout, super early. I’m going to miss walking into practice and seeing him sit there on the bench ready to greet us all with a smile on his face.”
After her impressive Wildcat career finally comes to a close, Harper will join 59 other women in Rosemont, Ill. and participate in the second season of Athletes Unlimited. She will finally fulfill her dream of playing professional softball alongside women who inspired her to be great as she was growing up.
“I’ve always wanted to be a person that helps to build softball and inspires the next generation,” Harper said. “I just want to be a role model for little girls and tell them all that they can be where I am and that nothing is unachievable if you keep working hard and follow your dreams.”