As she pursued a career in professional soccer, Aryana Harvey always had the right people to guide her.
Professional sports are a major part of the Harvey family lineage. Aryana's father Antonio Harvey played for six NBA teams in a pro basketball career that lasted over a decade, while her uncle Richard Harvey spent 11 years in the NFL, winning AFC championships with Buffalo in 1992 and 1993.
So when Aryana, a former three-year starter on the women's soccer team at Cal State Bakersfield, got advice on how to best pursue her own ambitions, she knew to take it to heart, and says there was one message both her father and uncle drilled into her repeatedly.
"They always said 'make yourself uncomfortable because that means you're going to grow as a player,' " she said. "(They said) if things are getting easy, that means you're not pushing yourself. At times, I was really uncomfortable, and that was good because that meant I was going to get better."
In recent years, Harvey always proved willing to put herself in positions of discomfort.
She did so in 2017, when she elected to make the jump from Pfeiffer University, a Division III school in Misenheimer, N.C., to the D-I ranks at CSUB.
She did so in the summer of 2019, when she earned a roster spot with So-Cal Union FC, a semi-pro team in the highly competitive Women's Premier League. On a roster filled with future and former professionals, she found a role for herself, scoring two goals on a team that put together an 8-2-2 record.
She even did so in her final two seasons with the Roadrunners.
After spending most of her career as a defensive-minded midfielder, new coach Sebastian Vecchio felt it would better suit the team to utilize Harvey's athleticism on the front line and elected to move her to forward.
“(We liked) her pace and her ability to beat people one-on-one on the dribble," Vecchio said. "This way we were able to isolate her one-on-one with a defender and she was very good in that area.”
Harvey quickly took to the more offensive role, as she was second on the team with three goals and three assists in 2018. She then became one of the most prolific distributors in the Western Athletic Conference in 2019, as her six assists led CSUB and were the third most in the league.
Now, after years of putting their guidance into practice, Harvey is set to follow her father and uncle into the professional ranks. Earlier this week, she signed a contract with Sport Football Damaiense, a professional team out of Lisbon, Portugal.
Harvey originally got on the radar of European professionals thanks to her friend Martim Galvao, a Lisbon native who played on the men's soccer team at Pfeiffer while she was attending the school. Galvao put her in touch with an agent, who was able to arrange a workout for a prospective team in January.
While Harvey says she "loved everything about Portugal and knew I wanted to go back the second I got the chance," her return would initially be delayed. Prior to the tryout, she'd contracted pneumonia and admits she "just wasn't fit enough" to handle the rigors of the workout.
Back in the states and done with school, she put all her time and energy into getting into peak physical condition while her agent continued to seek out opportunities for her. Months later, she got the call she was waiting for from Sport Football Damaiense, which began its offseason program last week.
Having to go through COVID-19 protocols before traveling, Harvey is set to depart for Lisbon on July 30 and is eager to join her teammates on the pitch.
“I’m very excited," she said. "I’ve worked my whole life for this moment and I’ve waited very patiently for this opportunity, so I won’t take it for granted.”