Twin extra-long mattresses, Vista Grande’s fine dining, getting sick the first week of school and utter confusion as to why building 33 is located next to building 1 symbolize most freshmen students’ feelings the first week at Cal Poly.
While these situations also describe her first week of the quarter, graphic communication freshman Sara Lancaster has been living the college life since mid-July. While the class of 2015 was spending their three month break from school enjoying time off, Lancaster was spending the dog days of summer on the practice pitch gearing up for her first collegiate start at forward for the Cal Poly women’s soccer team.
“We came in the end of July and started double-days,” Lancaster said. “We would (practice) from 8 to 10 (a.m.) and 2 to 4 (p.m.). It was pretty rough, coming in this summer and moving in early was a change in itself. No more home-cooked meals. I had to be a lot more independent.”
The true freshman calls Reno, Nev. home, and said growing up in the Sierra Nevada mountains spurred her love for the outdoors and sports in general. She said she has been involved in athletics since she can remember and would have it no other way.
“(Our family) goes camping in the summer, skiing in the winter and I play soccer everywhere in between,” Lancaster said. “I’ve been skiing since I was about two, and I also played basketball in high school.”
Soccer proved to be Lancaster’s focus for the last several years. She started playing when she was four, and credits her close relationship with her family and their competitive nature for helping her make it to the NCAA level.
“We’ve always been a soccer family,” Lancaster said. “When I was younger, I would always play with the boys. I used to play with my brother and other older kids. (My brother) likes to say that he taught me everything I know, but he’s just a defender.”
If the freshman fresh out of Galena High School is not smiling and cracking jokes, it is probably because she has not found the back of the net in a couple of games.
With five goals on the season, Lancaster leads all forwards and is second on the team in scoring, behind senior midfielder Tiffany Gummow. Although you would never know it judging by her humility and easy-going nature, the freshman phenom is a force on the pitch.
“I tried not to expect too much going in to the season because I knew there was such a huge roster,” Lancaster said. “I was just doing my best to play, so being able to start was really rewarding.”
Gummow said she holds her relationship with Lancaster in high regard, and said Lancaster’s undaunted attitude toward being a newcomer in the locker room has led to her success.
“Freshmen can be a little more timid and shy, but she’s not at all,” Gummow said. “She’s not afraid to make fun of the older girls. (Lancaster and I) have good chemistry on the field, we have a lot of mutual respect for each other and I don’t look down on her in any way, and she doesn’t see me as a senior.”
Good chemistry may be an understatement to describe their play together. The two combined for 11 of Cal Poly’s 20 total goals on the season, and both are amongst the top five in goals scored in the Big West Conference. Their on-field success is evidenced by a special handshake they do before every match.
Head coach Alex Crozier has also taken note of Lancaster’s exceptional play this season and said it is a product of her attitude toward the game of soccer.
“Sara is very likable and is just a fun person to be around,” Crozier said. “Many talented freshmen may over think their position, but Sara doesn’t. She just plays.”
Both Crozier and Gummow said Lancaster’s talents extend beyond the green grass of the pitch. The freshman can also strike a chord and carry a tune — her father and brother introduced her to music at an early age, and she has played acoustic guitar and sang ever since.
“That’s all I would do during my free time,” Lancaster said. “It’s one of those things that I do when I’m stressed out. I used to not like to sing in front of people, but they would always make me, so I kind of got used to it. Now I do it all the time.”
Lancaster said the team originally took notice of her special talents a few summers ago when she attended a Cal Poly summer soccer camp. After a tough day of training, a friend asked Lancaster to play guitar and sing at “skit night.” The freshman, admittedly shy at the time, did not want to, but was pressured into serenading her teammates when her friend brought out a guitar.
“I was convinced (my friend) wasn’t going to get the guitar, but, of course, she went and got it, and I had play for the people at the camp,” Lancaster said.
Although Lancaster has talents on and off the field, some typical freshman qualities remain. When asked why she believes building 33 is located next building 1 on the Cal Poly campus she responded in the usual freshman fashion.
“Well,” Lancaster said. “I have no idea.”
That answer might be the only thing that gives away her freshman status, especially in the eyes of her coach.
“You can call her a freshman,” Crozier said. “But she’s a soccer player.”