Get To Know: Lauren Hammond

You grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn. How did you choose to come to UT?

Well my college guidance counselor had mentioned that this school seemed like a great fit for me, but I kind of blew her off because I did not want to go to school in Florida. Finally, when nothing else seemed to work, I decided to visit the campus in November of my senior year, and I loved it. I knew I wanted to play soccer though and Bobby [Johnston] had never seen me play, so I guest played for HC United in the Orange Classic over Christmas. Then Bobby said I could come to preseason and see how things went from there.

How is Tampa different from life in Tennessee?

Tampa is so different from Chattanooga. Obviously, the weather – I definitely miss playing soccer in the “fall” with the leaves changing and it being really cool. Also, there aren’t very many true Southerners here. Oh, and mountains that’s what I miss the most, everything is so flat. You can’t even run hills.

How are you adjusting to college life?

I guess I am adjusting to college life pretty well. However, I’m more of a morning person than a night person and that doesn’t fit in too well on a college campus. And I miss home, but it’s been awesome meeting so many interesting and different people not only on the soccer team, but all around campus. I think soccer has helped me adjust a lot more than if I was not on the team.

You scored your first collegiate goal in the first game of the season against sixth-ranked Columbus State University. How did that feel?

Well completely shocking [laughing]. I didn’t think it had really happened, because I really have not scored that many goals in my whole soccer career. It was definitely very exciting though, and I owe it all to Rissa’s [Mohammed] utterly fantastic pass.

As a freshman, you’ve come into an already strong and successful program here at Tampa. What have been some of the adjustments you’ve had to make to create a smooth transition from high school to college?

I think the main thing I have had to work on is confidence on the ball, and reading my teammates. I am definitely not the best technical player, but I do think being in a program like this has already helped me improve my technical skills a lot. Also, at the college level I feel like I have had to get to know my teammates and their strengths and weaknesses and where they like the ball played a lot more, which is great because it definitely helps things out on the field.

Do you have any special rituals you do before games?

Mmm. Well, I always call my mom right before I go into the locker room so she can give me any last words of advice before the game. And as unpopular as it may be, in the circle drill for warm up I have to throw the ball over hand during the headers to practice my throw-ins.

You’ve started and played more than any other freshman on the team. Were you prepared to come in and make such a big impact on the team?

When I came to preseason camp this summer I was just ecstatic that I was going to be a part of this team that had made such a name for itself. It had never crossed my mind that I would start or even make the traveling squad. I was just overwhelmed getting a spot. So I don’t know if you could really call that prepared. But with all the encouraging words and constructive criticism from my teammates, I have gained a lot more confidence.

Coming off such a big, emotional win against rival St. Leo, how do you stay focused for the start of the playoffs?

I have so much adrenaline coming off of the St. Leo game that I can’t wait for the next game. I think in order to stay focused all you have to do is have the thought in the back of your mind that this could be our last game, especially for the seniors.

I don’t want their soccer careers to end until Dec. 1.

Other than soccer, what are some of your favorite things to do and places to go in Tampa?

Well, Bayshore is pretty cool. I want to go rollerblading on it so bad, but I haven’t had time. Also, the Panera on Howard is basically the Oh yes, and Busch Gardens! I would never pass up a chance to see Shelby Kuni and Reesey Bernard in their natural habitat.

What do you look forward to the most in your next couple years here at UT?

I’m looking forward the most to my experiences with the UT soccer team. It really is such a great group of girls, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better (and winning some National Championships with them!)

Do you know what you want to pursue after you graduate?

I definitely want to stay around soccer and sports in general so I am majoring in Sports Management. But I think I want to stay at the high school level. And I will probably move back to the southeast for the mountains and Southerners, or Colorado because it’s just really cool.

Shelby Kuni is a member of the women’s soccer team.

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