She’d always been an incredible athlete and competitor. But Dorrance asked her to take the next step — to go from good to great.
“We basically all told her the same things: ‘You’ve got to make a decision,’” he said. “‘If you decide to be what you’ve always been, you’ll certainly contribute ...
“But I said, ‘There’s a huge jump you can take if you are interested. But you’ve got to make some choices.’”
Lindsey stood tall in front of the goal. She wore a yellow goalie jersey, her back to the net with the defense arranged out in front of her.
This is her domain, where she dominates.
It was the first round of the 2011 Texas 5A state playoffs, and Lindsey’s team, Westlake, was playing McNeil.
Each team scored once and the game headed to penalty kicks. One of the players lining up for the opposing side was Satara Murray — Lindsey’s club teammate and a senior who had already committed to North Carolina.
Years earlier, Dorrance had come to recruit Murray to join UNC. The coach also made time to meet with their club team.
“After Anson’s talk, she wanted to meet him,” said her father, Russ. “She went up to meet him, and said, ‘I’m Lindsey Harris, and I’m going to come play at North Carolina.’ ...
“And he kind of laughed, but it turned out to be true.”
As soon as she stepped on campus, Lindsey showed off her raw athletic talent — the kind of stuff coaches want but can’t teach.
“I can even remember my freshman year, doing a bunch of reflex tests when we were coming in,” said Hanna Gardner, redshirt senior and Lindsey’s roommate.
“We were touching circles on a screen. And she got 20 times the score that I got, just off pure reflexes.”
That season, North Carolina held a team competition to see who would be the keeper if the Tar Heels went to penalty kicks. As a redshirt, Lindsey couldn’t be in goal for her team even if she won the contest.
But she did, anyway. This was her domain.
In competitive environments, Lindsey thrives.
As a toddler, her grandfather beat her in a game of tic-tac-toe. But Lindsey was irked by the loss, as trivial as it was.
“That’s when I knew,” Russ said. “I said, ‘This girl is competitive.’”
Some of that fire came from her parents — two trial attorneys — and a family in which athletics run deep. But it was also sculpted by hours and hours of competition with her younger sister, Lauren.
“I would always try to make her play ping pong with me, or stuff like that, and she just kind of wanted to play it casually,” Lindsey said.
“But I wouldn’t let her play easy. I wanted her to be good competition.”
Even McNeil wasn’t enough of a test for Lindsey. In penalty kicks, she made four saves, including one on a strike to the top-left corner from Murray — her future teammate at North Carolina.
And these weren’t normal kicks. In Texas, penalty kicks are taken shootout-style, where the offensive player gets to run forward and the goalkeeper comes off the line to make the save.
Lindsey dominated in net. She also calmly chipped in a penalty kick of her own to guide her team to a 2-1 win.
“I always told her, ‘Look, you have the God-given athleticism, hand-eye coordination, all those things that coaches can’t teach,” said her mother, Terri.
“You’re just born with it.”
Lindsey’s natural talent caught Dorrance’s eye — but he knew there was more.
“There just aren’t that many extraordinary athletes in any sport, because they are all holding back a bit,” he said.
“So when one of the rare moments when a wonderful athlete decides to be the best, the jump is visible.”
After the meeting, Lindsey made the choices to go from good to great. She started watching her diet, won a most-improved award from the team’s strength and conditioning coaches and added inches to her vertical.
“It kind of clicked in my head, like, ‘This is kind of your last chance,’” said Lindsey, who redshirted when UNC last won the national title in 2012.
“So you should probably take his advice if you really want to live up to the potential.”
It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly resonated with Lindsey. Or maybe it wasn’t what was said, but who said it: the coach with over 800 career victories and a history of bringing out the best in his players.
“If I wanted him by my side I needed to do what he told me to do,” Lindsey said. “Because he was right — he was 100 percent right. So I just wanted to show him that I could do it.”
Dorrance has two special nicknames for Lindsey: Jedi and puppy.
She’s the Jedi when she directs the defense exactly how she wants it and stops every ball that comes her way.
“He said I was using the Force to make saves,” she said. “The ball would just kind of bounce to me somehow.”
This season, she’s been the Jedi. In 16 starts, she has allowed 13 goals and made 67 saves — guiding the Tar Heels to five wins in the past six games before they compete in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals at home on Sunday.
But when she plays poorly, Dorrance calls her the puppy.
She’s the puppy when she plays inconsistently, or doesn’t display the God-given talent she showed in the state playoffs in Texas.
“He would call me the puppy if I ever messed up,” she said. “It’s his kind of way of saying, like, that wasn’t very good.
“He hasn’t called me that in a while.”