AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — With an experienced group of mostly seniors and graduate students complemented by a few young legs, UB is playing in the NCAA Division I women’s soccer tournament for the second time in history.
One accomplished local athlete in her seventh season on the roster has inspired the Bulls on their journey. Clarence High School sophomore Sarah Reid “is a big part of why we have been successful,” UB coach Shawn Burke said. “And she’ll continue to be a big part of this for as long as she wants to be.”
The Bulls adopted Reid in 2016 through Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization that matches children with serious illness or disability with college sports teams. Reid was born with spina bifida, a defect that required surgery two days after birth and left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Reid’s signing ceremony, where she was presented with a No. 26 jersey and a locker with name on it, was “a very exciting day for UB women’s soccer,” Burke said.
Matched when Reid was age 9, in Burke’s third season coach the Bulls, the Team IMPACT arrangement was to be a two-year deal. But Reid has kept her spot on the roster after every one of her original teammates graduated.
“I did not think it would last as long as it did,” Reid said last week on the field at UB Stadium while celebrating the Mid-American Conference championship victory. “But I am definitely glad it did because I made so many new friends and gained a really big family from this.”
Reid accompanies the Bulls on the sideline for every home match, even in bad weather. And she’s made the occasional road trip, including the one to Pittsburgh for UB’s opening game in the NCAA tournament.
“When we decided to partner with Team IMPACT, it wasn’t just for PR,” Burke said. “The reason we have been successful as a program is because we invest in the people who are here. We’re committed to Sarah, and she’s committed to us. This is a relationship that will carry on.”
The Bulls have also enjoyed following Reid’s athletic endeavors. She competes for the Buffalo Area Aquatic Club and the Rochester Rookies track program, along with the Clarence varsity teams. In July, she placed first in seven events at the Move United Junior Nationals in Denver, Colorado, which also included a clinic with U.S. Paralympic coaches.
“I’m telling you she is going to be an Olympic athlete someday,” Burke said. “And our players get as much inspiration from watching her compete in swimming and track than she does from being around us.”
Being around the Bulls pushed Reid to join a wheelchair basketball team, her mother said.
“This was her first experience with team sports, and UB has been so welcoming and inclusive to her,” Lori Reid said. “As her athletic career has developed, they have always been there to support her.”
Witnessing the disappointment UB has faced in recent seasons, Sarah Reid was thrilled to see her teammates breakthrough and win the MAC title on their home field last weekend.
“It was great to celebrate with the team I love,” she said. “It’s been a great journey with them the past seven years. I’ve gotten to see how they roll and their way of life being a college athlete. How encouraged and motivated they are, even when they lose a game.”
Burke has used Reid’s consistent presence in coaching the Bulls to persevere.
“We tell the players all the time about perspective,” Burke said. “We’ve all got stuff that goes on in our individual lives, some good and some bad. It’s how you deal with the hand you are dealt.
“Sarah’s always smiling and always happy to be here. She’s been such a beacon of light for us.”