Sophomore Sara Readinger began her Penn women’s soccer career as an integral member of the team and has continued to live up to this reputation despite the challenges of a virtual semester.
From her first game as a freshman, Readinger has demonstrated her skills and technique as the team’s center midfielder, and she started in all but one of the 16 games that the Quakers played in last season. She logged 1,248 minutes, the fourth most of any player, and played over 89 minutes in 11 of the matches in which she appeared.
Readinger began playing soccer in her hometown’s intramural league when she was four. Despite experimenting with other sports like basketball, soccer was always her favorite. As captain of her high school soccer team, she led the squad to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association State Championship.
The Telford, Pa. native was drawn to the friendly team atmosphere at Penn, and felt that Penn was a good fit for her because she could balance academics and athletics.
“It was a place that would challenge me in soccer and in school,” Readinger said. “Everyone was super welcoming and you could tell that everyone just pushed each other.”
For Readinger, the Red and Blue has lived up to her expectations. As a Biology major possibly pursuing a pre-medicine track, she has a busy schedule outside of playing for the Quakers, but she has still achieved success in both academics and athletics. So far, her favorite part of playing on the team has been bonding with her teammates.
“I think a lot more about my other teammates now, holding other people accountable, and just being there for other people,” Readinger said. “Being on a whole new team, it’s hard to integrate yourself, and I think that our team and our coaching staff has done such a great job of building great teammates before players.”
Penn women’s soccer coach Casey Brown highlighted how integral Readinger has been to the development of the team’s identity, both in group settings and one-on-one coaching conversations.
“She’s a competitor,” Brown said. “You can tell she has that fire in her belly and she has really demonstrated to me to have a really strong and high soccer IQ. The more I’ve seen her in team settings too, she’s really finding and continually growing her voice from a leadership perspective.”
Senior defender McRae Fried noted Readinger's intense work ethic and positive energy from the beginning of Readinger’s time on the team.
“We sat next to each other in the locker room last year and got super close,” Fried said. “I quickly realized that no matter what was going on I could always count on Sara to be a source of joy and laughter. She has such an optimistic attitude about everything, and as her friend it's impossible not to be impacted by her infectious positivity.”
Although Readinger brings energy and liveliness to the team off the field, her presence on the field is more collected.
“If we’re in a situation where we’re in a panic, we could be down by a goal, we have to score, and the game is on the line, I feel like I bring a very calming presence,” Readinger said. “I get everyone connected, grounded, and playing our game.”
These qualities make Readinger the person that she and the rest of the team look to for support, both off the field and during matches.
“She’ll put her teammates before everything,” sophomore defender Peyton Raun said. “On the field, with her high soccer IQ, you can always look to her for guidance. Additionally, she’s quick to adapt to any style of play or opponent, which makes her a versatile and key player for our team.”
During this semester, Penn women’s soccer has been meeting over Zoom once or twice per week to discuss strategy and keep players engaged and connected. In these meetings, Readinger has demonstrated her potential to lead the team to success once they are able to play again.
“It has been really cool to see her just blossom, because I know in watching film before, getting a feel for her as a player, and even in the conversations we’ve had, she is and is likely going to be an integral piece to the puzzle,” Brown said.
If the team isn’t able to play this spring, Readinger will receive another year of eligibility to play a fifth year of soccer. Although Readinger does not want to play soccer professionally, she is contemplating the possibility of using this eligibility to make up for the year that she lost due to the pandemic.
Overall, Readinger feels that being on Penn women’s soccer has inspired her to strive for success and maintain a strong work ethic.
“Coming in, you’re very inspired by all the other people that worked so hard to be here,” Readinger said. “They’re putting so much effort into everything they do in their lives. I pushed myself so much more than I thought I could and the standard that I hold myself to is a lot higher than it was before.”
Despite the challenge of missing a season of the sport she loves, Readinger's leadership and growth show that she will be a player to watch for seasons to come.