Fifth-year retires racquet for hoops

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Sarah Lancaster may be a fresh face to the women’s basketball squad, but she lacks no experience in representing the Longhorns on the athletic stage.

A four-year women’s tennis player, Lancaster decided to retire her racquet last spring and replace it with a basketball.

But her final decision to try out for the basketball team did not come without some pestering from her old teammates.

“Whenever it rained for tennis we would sometimes go over to the recreation center where I would always get a basketball,” Lancaster said. “But all the girls on tennis were always like, ‘Sarah, when you are done with tennis, you should try out for basketball. Just try.’ And I was always like, ‘Yeah guys, ha-ha, that’s funny.’”

To the fifth-year senior, what at first seemed like a joke began evolving into a reality as she recalled her love for the sport she played during high school.

“So when I was done with tennis I was like ‘Hmm, maybe I should give it a shot.’ I played in high school and I’ve always really enjoyed playing basketball,” Lancaster said. “I thought it would be a really cool thing to do, not a lot of people get to play two sports in college or play a different sport in their fifth year. And I decided why not at least try and see what happens.”

So Lancaster decided to take a chance and try out for the team. Tennis head coach Patty Fendick-McCain put in a call to women’s basketball head coach Gail Goestenkors. In addition to the words of support from Fendick-McCain, she sent Goestenkors a short video to her cell phone of Lancaster shooting some hoops.

“You don’t hear about many tennis players who also play basketball,” Goestenkors said. “I was surprised, but I was also very open to the idea.”

One of the senior leaders on the tennis team, Lancaster finished her career last spring with an impressive collegiate singles match record of 89-38. But with her switch from the tennis courts to the hardwood, she found herself in an unusual situation.

As an experienced Texas athlete, Lancaster is the oldest on the basketball team. The six new faces the team welcomed this year included Lancaster and five freshmen.

“Because I haven’t played for four years, some of the freshmen help me out and told me if I am doing something wrong,” Lancaster said. “But I do have experience representing Texas. I can help them a little more, I’ve been in pressure situations myself.”

But for Lancaster, being the oldest hasn’t fazed her. Her shift from one sport to another has been an experience. In an almost seamless transition, her teammates readily offer advice and have become good friends — a bond between Lancaster and fellow senior teammate Kathleen Nash has begun to develop.

“We knew each other before. But we’ve built a good friendship through this experience,” Lancaster said. “Our personalities seem to get along really well. We like to have a lot of fun and joke around.”

Being on the tennis team provided Lancaster with both discipline and drive, something she readily exhibits in her practice and play with the basketball team.

“I’ve been very pleased. She’s in great shape,” Goestenkors said. “She beat everyone in all the sprints. Because of tennis she has got quick hands and feet. She anticipates very, very well. She just fits in great with the team.”

With the hopes of attending law school in 2011, Lancaster remains focused. She regularly keeps in touch with her old tennis coaches and teammates.

But as her December graduation quickly approaches, Lancaster is just happy to be a part of this experience and be on a team.

“It’s been a really good experience,” she said. “Being on a team, playing a different sport and making new friends. I’m looking forward to what may come ahead.”