Young Star Shining Bright Among Ten Freshmen

A young sports team’s present and future success depends upon discovering and refining a few diamonds in the rough.

For the UT women’s soccer program, Sara Kneeland has stepped up as one of those bright stars.

Kneeland, of Glenelg, Md., is one of ten freshmen on this year’s squad.

She has jumped into a starting role in her first year and has been impressive. She is second on the team in goals (five) and leads the Spartans in shot percentage (.278) through.

UT is very young, with only two seniors. Defender Saige Steinmetz and midfielder Renata Figueira stand alone with senority.

The early struggles that team has experienced, Kneeland attributes to the lack of playing time.

“We’re very young and inexperienced, so we have a lot to learn,” Kneeland said. “But we’re bonding really well. The team chemistry is good.”

Before Tampa came calling, Kneeland starred at St. Johns College High School in Washington, D.C., where she played alongside fellow UT freshman Dana Palmiotto. Theteam won three conference titles during her four-year tenure as an All-Conference forward.

Her club team, the Laurel Wildcats, won three Maryland state championships.

Kneeland decided to attend UT because she loves the city of Tampa and sees a suitable coach in Gerry Lucey.

“On all my recruiting trips, most of the coaches seemed iffy,” Kneeland said. “But Gerry seemed like a really nice guy and a good coach.”

Although she is the second leading goal scorer on the team, Kneeland has seen herself coming off the bench during the first half of many games.

The coaching strategy is solely to see what would work best for the team. “We don’t have as much depth as we’d like,” said Head Coach Gerry Lucey. “We are trying to make sure that the players we have on the field are going to be the most effective at that time.”

Kneeland summarized her first year with a few simple words: “a lot of fun.” If she continues to excel, a lot more fun may await ahead.

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