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Quest for the Net

Lori and Sara Arundell have broken many barriers as mother/daughter and coach/player. This year, Sara is looking to break another as she attempts to take her mom's career-scoring soccer record.

John Tranchina
Marc Rains
March 28, 2020

She may be following in her mom’s footsteps and be in mom’s shadow. Still, Sara Arundell has, by just about all measures, surpassed her mother and coach Lori Arundell as a soccer player and is treading her own path in her senior season at Sapulpa High School.

The last two years have seen the mother-daughter duo lead the Lady Chieftains to two of their all-time best soccer seasons, while Sara, a midfielder, broke Lori’s single-season Sapulpa goals record and is aiming for her career mark this season.

With several supporting cast players having graduated last year, Sara may have a more difficult time helping Sapulpa pile up the wins this season. Still, she is embracing her new role as a senior leader.

“I feel like when I step up and try my best, everyone else around me tries their best,” Sara says. “It just makes us better as a team when we all try our best and not give half-effort. It’s easy for me to give my best and show everybody else that it’s not that hard.”

After a strong sophomore year in 2018 in which she scored seven goals and 14 assists, earning Tulsa World first-team All-World honors, Sara raised her level of play another notch last season. As a junior, she scored 20 goals and 11 assists, breaking Lori’s school record of 16 goals in a season from the early 1990s, and was again named to the All-World first team. She also helped the Lady Chieftains go 12-4, setting new school records for wins and goals (77) in a season. It was their second straight year topping 10 victories and reaching the Class 6A state playoffs, although they ended up falling to Broken Arrow both times in the first round.

“I didn’t think I would ever do that, honestly,” Sara says of breaking her mom’s goal record. “I wasn’t expecting it; it was a good surprise.”

Now her sights are set on Lori’s career standard of 44 goals. Sara started the 2020 season with 34, so she needs half of her output from last season to match it.

“Yes, it is a goal for me to hit,” Sara admits. “If it happens, it happens. I’m good with it either way.”

The former Lori Morrow, who went on to play four years at the University of Tulsa, is happy to see her records fall to her daughter.

“Hey, if anybody’s going to break your record, when your child does it, it’s pretty special,” Lori says. “That was fun. She broke that last year and rubbed it in my face, and I’m like, ‘Remember, you have to beat my record, though.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, I’m going to beat it,’ and I’m like, ‘I hope you do; that would be great.’

“I tell her all the time, ‘You’re a far better soccer player than I was, so you should break it.’ We didn’t play club soccer as they do now. It’s all year round. I played basketball. We didn’t focus on just one sport, and we didn’t have the opportunities that they do. So she’s better because she’s played a heck of a lot more and she loves it. She lives soccer and breathes it.”

Lori tried to get Sara also to play basketball, but Sara did run track and played volleyball in middle school, “just to mix it up.”

“My mom wanted me to play basketball, but it was all soccer,” Sara says. “I love being part of a team, and I love working hard. I like running a lot, which is weird. I love being competitive.”  

Remarkably, there haven’t been any mom-coach complications for them, primarily because that’s just how it’s always been since Lori has coached Sara in club soccer since she was younger.

“My mom has coached my club team. It’s been great for our family spending that much time together,” Sara says of their relationship. “And me being the best I can be at soccer, and looking up to her as a soccer player, makes me want to be better. It’s always been pretty smooth.”

Still, Lori notes that she makes sure to turn off her “coach” role once they are off the field or out of the locker room.

“Luckily, it’s not been bad,” Lori says. “I’ve pretty much been her main coach throughout her career, so she’s used to me. Once the game or practice is over, I’m mom. I don’t sit there and go, ‘You should have done this.’ I’m supportive. I don’t talk about soccer.”  

Sara confirms that Lori uses positive reinforcement to make her point as a coach without getting mad or shouting at her, as some coaches do.

“She knows how I am, and negative [comments] don’t make me better,” Sara says. “The positive things have made me better, and when she tells me what to do, she tells me what I’ve done wrong and what I can fix, instead of just yelling at me.”

In addition to having had Lori as her coach for so long, Sara has also dealt with having her mom as a teacher. Lori teaches algebra at Sapulpa, and that’s just one more barrier the two have broken together.

“It’s just the same,” Sara says. “I’m just used to it, just like any other teacher.”

And despite mom’s impressive legacy as a player, Sara reports she hasn’t felt any pressure to live up to those lofty standards, partly because Lori has always told her she’s better than she was.

Like her mom, Sara will also be playing soccer in college, having committed to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Her academic path will also follow Lori’s footsteps.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher just like my mom, and I feel like NSU is the best fit for me,” Sara says. “I like the coach [Chase Wooten], and my best friend is also going to NSU.”