Lambert sophomore Sydney Hennessey had two messages for University of Tennessee women’s soccer coach Brian Pensky when she called him this past Tuesday.
The first: after two years of the Volunteers recruiting the Longhorns’ defender, she was ready to verbally commit to play in Knoxville.
The second: she intends to play right away.
“I told him when I go there I’m determined to play,” Hennessey said. “I’m going to do everything in my power to either start right away or have a big impact on the game.”
Hennessey is accustomed to being counted on regardless of her experience. She was one of Lambert’s starting outside defenders as a freshman this past season when the Longhorns won the Class 7A state championship, adding five goals and four assists to her tenacious defense.
Lambert will miss that this upcoming season. This summer, her Concorde Fire club team joined the U.S. Development Academy, which prohibits high school participation. Hennessey won’t be there to help Lambert defend its state title.
But Hennessey said she has plenty to work on until she can officially sign with Tennessee in November 2019. Technical skills, one-on-one attacking, upper-body strength and field vision are among her priorities.
Hennessey says improvement in all those areas would help her be as versatile a player as possible when she gets to Tennessee – the better to be able to play right away.
“If there’s a spot open, and it’s either a forward or center-mid or center-back position, I don’t care where it is,” Hennessey said. “I’m just going to get on the field and perform like I should.”
That would be useful for Pensky, whose Volunteers went 11-9-1 overall and 5-5-1 in the SEC but haven’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2012. Tennessee was 4-0 this season going into a game Friday against Belmont University.
Hennessey first visited Tennessee this past June after Pensky and his coaching staff had traversed the country following her Concorde Fire U16 team in Houston, Phoenix, Raleigh and Stanford. They offered Hennessey a scholarship in early August. She waited three weeks before making her decision.
“I really felt a personal connection to Tennessee,” Hennessey said, “… when I stepped on Tennessee’s campus, I had the feeling that I fit in here totally. I could really see myself playing there.”