The Colony sophomore Olivia Howard is appreciative of the one season that she got to play with Ariana August on the Lady Cougars’ soccer team.
August created runs up the field to set up scoring chances for Howard. Howard ran to the area that August had vacated and struck the ball with her foot. Most times, Howard was aiming for the back corner of the post, because “most goalkeepers, in general, can’t get to the side netting.”
The back corner of the net was where several of Howard’s shots came from during the 2020 season.
Howard scored 17 goals and notched 12 assists in just 21 matches, helping lift the Lady Cougars to an official third-place finish in District 8-5A while clinching their third consecutive playoff berth before the remainder of the season was ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And it wasn’t just Howard, then a freshman, who forced opposing defenses to keep their heads on a swivel. August, then a senior, was just as lethal with the ball on her foot. She finished her prep career as the The Colony’s all-time leader in goals with 28.
"The chemistry on the field was incredible,” Howard said. “The assists that we had and the opportunities that we created for each other, it was amazing. She is one of the greatest players that I have ever got to play on the field with."
It was through hard work in practice, as well as in private training sessions, that has made Howard one of the area’s most feared strikers.
During private workouts, she places light green weights atop the corners of the net to serve as targets. Those targets help her to work on her shot placement. It made her realize that she just can’t shoot the ball on net. She had to strike the ball and strike it well. Once she got that part of her game down, she said that’s when the goals started to come.
This season, Howard has picked up where she left off. The Colony has played 16 matches and she already has 20 goals — plus a school record to boot. In the Lady Cougars’ Jan. 14 match against Keller Central, Howard blasted her 29th career goal to surpass August’s mark.
Howard said that she learned about the milestone on the ride home with her father, Dennis.
“It’s definitely been a lot of hard work and a lot of extra training,” she said. “It’s definitely an absolute honor. It’s something that I’ve been working for. It was a very exciting moment and definitely a goal reached.”
Growing up, Howard played multiple sports. She swung the tennis racket and did dance for a long time before competing in basketball, track and field and volleyball during middle school. But, soccer was always her first love.
"Ultimately, soccer is something that I have always been passionate about, and I've enjoyed watching it," Howard said. "It's always just clicked for me.”
When Howard isn’t playing for The Colony, she can be found on the club circuit.
For the past seven years, she was getting in her kicks with one of FC Dallas’ club teams. This year, COVID-19 didn’t make it easy to get a tryout with Elite Clubs National League, which Howard said is one of the top club leagues in the nation. But, she earned her way onto the team and has gained experience playing against elite competition.
For all of the skill that Howard possesses, she considers herself to still be a student of the game.
The Colony head coach Tommy Ray is rounding Howard into a complete player. Coming into this season, he has implored her, more than anything else, to work on her first touch. He also shares game statistics with her and tells Howard what she did well and what she areas of her game that she needs to clean up.
“He's truly been a mentor to me ever since I first walked through these doors,” Howard said. “He's honest with me and tells me what I need to work on. He'll say, ‘You're good at this but your first touch isn't perfect.’ Or, ‘You're good at this, but your passing is off.' Ultimately, having somebody be brutally honest with me and tell me this is where you're lacking has made me so much of a better player."
Ray raved about Howard’s performance in a 3-1 loss to 10-5A leader Wylie East on Jan. 29. She didn’t score but it was other facets of her game that left a positive impression on her head coach.
After the game, Ray told Howard, “I know that you didn’t score. That’s what you’re wanting to do. But, I’m very proud of the way that you played in other aspects. She’s learning how to defend as a forward, and things like that.”
Howard’s play is one reason why The Colony is off to a 9-5-2 start and holding down a playoff spot.
“She’s a natural finisher,” Ray said. “The thing that I’ve challenged her to do is to take on different roles. I’m used to goals, but we’re trying to improve her game, and she is showing that improvement on other ends.”