After three straight years of injuries, Sarah Fuller only hoped to put together her first full season for the Vanderbilt University women’s soccer team in 2020.
On November 28, she did more than that when, as a last-minute substitute for a Covid-19 outbreak, the 21-year-old goalkeeper became the first female athlete to play in the Power 5, the highest level in the university. . football. Fuller and his soccer team had secured their season with a conference title just six days earlier when he took the field for the start of halftime for the men’s soccer team wearing a helmet that read “Play like a girl.”
Fuller’s kickoff didn’t win the game. It didn’t even change course for the Commodores, who lost the game to Missouri 41-0. Fuller didn’t have a chance to punt or score a field goal. However, she took the initiative to address her new team at halftime, something she had done often in her role as soccer captain.
“These last few weeks have been incredible,” Fuller told The Guardian this week. “The energy of the team has been amazing. Some of my teammates’ little sisters play flag football and they have asked me to send them videos, saying they are inspired. “
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz was impressed. “Every time a barrier is broken, it should be commended,” he said after the game. “That she has the courage to go out and be part of a soccer team will be a broken barrier. That’s great. I shared with her that I have four daughters and that makes me very proud to be on the soccer field with her, congratulate her and wish her the best ”.
After the game, Fuller told reporters that their team conversation felt natural. “I went in there and said exactly what I was thinking. I was like, ‘We have to cheer each other on. This is how games are won. This is how you improve by calling each other for things, and I’m going to call you. We need to support each other. We need to lift each other up. That’s what a team is all about, ‘”Fuller said. “I think this team has had problems and that has been part of it.
Fuller was clearly well behaved: He was asked to get dressed again Saturday for the Commodores against rival Tennessee.
Between getting acquainted with his new team, which he says was immediately supportive, and studying for the finals for the past two weeks, Fuller has also maneuvered instant celebrity. Fuller’s unexpected turn as a trailblazer has earned her national appearances on Good Morning America and CNN, and she has received praise from the likes of LeBron James and Megan Rapinoe. It helps that the 6-foot-1 Texan is no stranger to standing out from the crowd. Literally.
From elementary school to high school, Fuller was the tallest student in his class, boy or girl. However, while other children might have been weakened by being different, Fuller adopted their size. Fuller’s father, a project manager for a construction company, is 6 feet 2 inches tall; while her mother, a teacher, is a lanky 5 foot 10 inches. Both of Fuller’s grandparents are 6 feet 5 inches tall.
“My parents always praised me [being tall]Fuller said. “Everybody always told me how tall and athletic he was. [in a positive way.] I was very confident about it. I still am today. I’ll go out to play sports or put on a dress and heels and be 6ft 5in. “
Fuller was always in the last row during class photos, but she was also one of the first girls chosen for games. She was playing kickball, making the red rubber ball soar so far, even the children were gaping.
Fuller’s height, and the confidence she had in her, naturally led her to sports like basketball and volleyball, but futsal leagues, many of them co-ed, were a constant for her.
“I tried golf at one point, but it didn’t work because it was too loud and loud,” Fuller said. “Clearly, I was left with a sport where I could yell at people.”
Originally, Fuller played offense for his soccer team and was a top scorer. The first time it was scored, Fuller thought it was punishment.
“I thought they thought I shouldn’t be doing well enough,” Fuller said. If it weren’t for his younger sister, Katie, who continued to play, Fuller wouldn’t have given soccer another chance.
“I was jealous of my sister, who was having so much fun with it, that I decided to go back there.” When the situation arose again for Fuller to enter the goal, she agreed to give it a try.
“It wasn’t my favorite position, but I said I would,” Fuller said. A season later, Fuller and his team were in the championship and, surprisingly, the new goalkeeper had saved all the penalties sent.
“Once I learned to dive properly, to hold the ball properly, I really started to enjoy the challenge,” Fuller said. “I started spending hours kicking balls.”
Fuller captained his elite club and high school teams, sometimes making assists from midfield. It’s clear why the Vanderbilt football team called: He could kick the ball 60 yards while still in high school.
Had it not been for a broken foot, a disc slip and a minor fracture, Fuller’s Vanderbilt career in football might have turned out more fruitful, but the unflappable Fuller is getting a second life on the football field. He graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in medicine, health and society and will attend the University of North Texas for his master’s degree, where he will also be eligible to compete in soccer for two more years. With the SEC title, Vanderbilt’s soccer team also won an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament. Fuller also dreams of playing in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Fuller’s soccer teammates call her “Full-time,” a cool joke to remind her that she couldn’t compete until this crazy, unpredictable and historic season. She says her soccer teammates simply call her “Champion”.
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