The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Pass, dribble, shoot: It’s all the same for Zimmerman

Sarah Zimmerman, ’26, went from not knowing she wanted to play collegiate sport to being a threat in soccer and basketball at W&L.
Sarah Zimmerman, ‘26, hopes to go further in the ODAC tournament this year for women’s soccer. Photo courtesy of Generals Sports

Many young athletes growing up are asked the question, “What is your main sport?” Washington and Lee University’s Sarah Zimmerman, ’26, still doesn’t have an answer.

Zimmerman is an impact player for not one but two teams on campus: basketball and soccer. In her freshman seasons, the Cincinnati native was named third-team all-conference for soccer and then turned around to average 20 minutes a game for the Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship basketball team. By her sophomore year of high school, Zimmerman said, she didn’t even want to play collegiate sports. Now, she can’t imagine her life without them.

“I just like playing,” Zimmerman said. “I always say whatever time practice takes up I would probably just go workout anyways… and playing sports is better than just going on a run by myself.”

Growing up, Zimmerman played just about every sport she could get her hands (or feet) on, including tennis, swimming, lacrosse, softball, gymnastics, golf, volleyball, track and, of course, basketball and soccer.

Playing two sports runs in her family, too. Her mom played soccer and basketball at Cornell. Zimmerman also has twin younger sisters who will be coming to Washington and Lee next year. Both will be playing soccer, and one is planning on playing basketball too like Sarah.

Zimmerman’s impression of collegiate sports had been stained by hearing horror stories about burnout from soccer teammates who had gone to Division I. But athletics began to return for Zimmerman during her sophomore year of high school after the COVID-19 pandemic, and her feelings toward her future as a collegiate athlete changed.

“My high school soccer coach was like, ‘You will probably drive yourself crazy if you don’t do anything in college,’” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman agreed and began to explore Division III schools where she thought she could have a balance between academics, athletics and a social life. Washington and Lee’s women’s soccer coach at that time, Neil Cunningham, jumped at the opportunity to recruit her.

After securing a spot on the soccer team, she reached out to women’s basketball Coach Christine Clancy to see if she could do both soccer and basketball.

“Honestly, I guess that [Clancy] just trusted me because they never saw me play,” Zimmerman said. “I think they were just like, ‘We’ll give her a shot.’”

After talking to Zimmerman on the phone about possibly playing basketball and soccer, Clancy spoke to Cunningham, who described her as a very rare kind of athlete, like few he had ever seen.

“I had never even seen her play,” Clancy said.

But she trusted Cunningham’s word about the kind of athlete Zimmerman is based on previous players he was comparing her to. Zimmerman committed to Washington and Lee for both soccer and basketball the August before her senior year of high school.

Zimmerman has posted some impressive stats during her time at Washington and Lee. In her freshman year playing soccer, she scored four goals and tallied two assists. She also started in all but two games and logged over 1,000 minutes of playing time.

This year, through five games, she already has two goals and one assist. The women’s soccer team has not lost a regular season game since Zimmerman’s arrival to the team with a record 19 wins and six ties.

“She brings a lot of joy to practice and intensity though at the same time,” said head women’s soccer coach Tiffany Pins. “That’s one of the biggest things that I like about her–that we kind of get the same thing all the time.”

After transitioning to basketball her freshman year and not playing in the first five games, Clancy said Zimmerman first made her presence felt against Southern Virginia University. That game she recorded seven points and seven rebounds with two steals.

“As soon as she got into that game a little bit, it was like, okay,” Clancy said. “She’s going to move right up into the regular rotation.”

On the year, she averaged five points, four rebounds and nearly two assists. Zimmerman said the transition from sport to sport was not too hard on her.

“It was probably stressful, but honestly I don’t really remember it,” she said.

Clancy, like Pins, said she was impressed with Zimmerman’s consistency and ability to get things done.

“When I met with her in the fall of her first year, she was more put together—just organized and on top of her school work … even more so than her basketball teammate first-years who were not even in season yet,” Clancy said.

Zimmerman’s goals for herself and her teams this year are simple: Do better than last year. For soccer, that means going farther in the ODAC tournament and NCAA tournament. For basketball, it means repeating as conference champions and deeper in the NCAA tournament.

“I love my teams,” Zimmerman said. “I just want to be a big contributor this year whatever that means.”

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