For Penn men's soccer defender Kai Lammers, soccer is the family business.
The freshman's father formerly played professional soccer in the Netherlands, meaning Lammers inherited his passion for the game early on. He started playing organized soccer when he was six years old and has never looked back.
“The joy I get from the game is always there for me, and I’ve never really had moments where I’ve wanted to not play,” Lammers said. “It’s a huge part of my life that I’ve always wanted to have.”
Growing up in Greenwich, Conn., Lammers played for two soccer programs simultaneously throughout high school, NYSC Academy and NYCFC Developmental Academy. He has won two U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Championships in the past two years with NYCFC, and earlier in 2019 earned an invite to the U.S. U18 national team camp.
Lammers, who starts at left back for Penn, credits his academy training for preparing him to take the leap to collegiate-level soccer.
“We were training almost every single day there,” he said. “We do film and stuff like that. We were doing similar things in the academy as we do here, but the difference really is obviously a higher level of play here. It’s a little bit more intense obviously, and there’s more on the line and stuff, but overall the academy does a good job, just preparing players for what most college teams have to offer.”
And with this training, it didn’t take him long to make his presence felt on Rhodes Field. Lammers scored less than ten minutes into his first collegiate appearance, netting his first shot against Monmouth. His goal opened the scoring for the Quakers this season, ultimately helping them to a 2-0 victory on the road.
Lammers hasn’t let up since: this season, he is ranked by Top Drawer Soccer as one of the top 100 freshmen in the nation at No. 93, one of only two Ivy League players on the list. He ranks fourth on the team in minutes played, boasting the most of any other freshman at 1,140, and he is one of only two Penn defenders with a goal under his belt, along with junior midfielder Alex Touche.
Lammers joined a cohort of Quaker defenders that allowed only 0.94 goals per game and shut out their opponents on seven occasions last year. He has played a key role in helping Penn’s backline maintain this dominance over the 2019 season. With three games left to play in the regular season, the Red and Blue have allowed only 15 goals, for an average of 0.92 goals against per game.
According to Lammers, support from the veterans on the team was key in the remarkable opening to his NCAA career.
“They’re just all just really supportive guys,” he said. “Whenever something may not be going my way, they’re always there for me. They’re always helping to support me on the field, and even off the field as well, and they’re just giving tips and a little feedback as well. They’re kind of like secondary coaches.”
And as for following in his father’s professional footsteps, Lammers is keeping his focus at Penn for now.
“It’s always been a dream of mine, but right now I’m just focusing on obviously the soccer here, getting an education, getting a degree. Depending on how it goes here, there’s always that opportunity, and it is something I’d love to pursue. But that is something for the future that I could think about in a few years.”
With Lammers leading the charge of a talented freshman class, the future looks bright for Penn men’s soccer, with his name as one to watch.