Missouri freshman Ashley Hamblin’s transition to college was made easier by her family.
Her soccer family, that is.
“It’s like going away from your parents to another family,” Hamblin said of the support she received from her fellow players. “You feel at home right away.”
Hamblin and four other freshmen, Kat Tarr, Janelle Cordia, Mo Redmond, and Carolina Pohl, saw playing time this weekend in MU’s two wins in the Big 12/Big 10 Challenge at Walton Stadium. The Tigers triumphed against Purdue 2-1 on Sunday afternoon after beating Indiana 2-0 on Friday evening. The victories move their record to 2-1-1.
Tarr said she was a little nervous before the start of the Tigers’ first home game Friday, but the feeling quickly went away.
“Once the game starts, you don’t think about it,” Tarr said. “You just focus on the ball. The older girls helped a lot. They just told us it was all going to be OK.”
Fifteen of the 25 Mizzou players are freshmen and sophomores. Coach Bryan Blitz said there are pros and cons to having such a youthful team.
“Young players have so much enthusiasm and energy,” Blitz said. “They’re sometimes naive. They don’t know what players are or aren’t good, so they always play hard and they’re thankful for every minute. The downside for every freshman is consistency, putting many great games together.”
For Tarr, the hardest thing has been being far away from her family in Vancouver, Wash., but she’s glad she chose to come to Mizzou.
“I’m growing so much as a person,” Tarr said. “And they’re going to come to some games and I’m going home for Thanksgiving.”
She said she was surprised to discover the Tigers are so tight-knit. “It’s really amazing how the freshmen are such good friends, and how the freshmen are such good friends with the seniors,” Tarr said. “I’ve never been on a team where everyone is so close.”
Blitz said he encourages the upperclassmen to take the freshmen under their wing.
“Part of it is who they are. They’re good people,” he said of the seniors. “But also before the freshmen get here in the summer we set up a big sister-little sister program. To be successful we have to include and welcome the freshmen.”
The decision to play for Mizzou was natural for Cordia, a Columbia native.
At Hickman High School she competed alongside Mizzou’s Mallory Ames, Lauren Grice, and Kira Reyes. Cordia said having friends on the team was a huge part of her decision to attend Missouri.
She is also close with the other nine freshmen on the team.
“We have really good relationships with one another,” Cordia said. “It’s a good way to meet people who’ll be here for four years.”
For Cordia, the biggest adjustment has been the level of competition on the field.
“It’s a lot faster and a lot more physical,” Cordia said. “You have to be mentally there as well as physically.”
Redmond also is thrilled about the level of closeness to her teammates.
“I chose to come here first because I love the school, but the girls on the soccer team made it so much better,” Redmond said. “We all love each other.”
While they do have some disagreements as a result of spending so much time together, Redmond said everything always gets worked out.
“Everybody’s going to get tired, but we’re always adult and face each other with them,” she said. “They all get resolved.”
Ultimately, their friendships off the field benefit their time on the field.
“We learn to trust each other,” Hamblin said. “We learn about each others’ personalities, and you know that if someone yells at you, they’re just trying to help you.”
“When you not only know how someone plays soccer but also know their personality, you know how to pick them up and encourage them to go after a ball,” she said.
Blitz has been pleased with the freshmen so far.
“You never know what you’ll get from freshmen, but this bunch has been very consistent,” he said.