When Sarah Fuller took the field to kick for Vanderbilt’s football team on Nov. 28, she not only made history on the field. As the first woman to play in a Power Five conference NCAA football game, Fuller became an inspiration across the sports world.
She was asked to kick for the Commodores after all the kickers on their roster were made inactive due to injuries and COVID-19 exposure. The team added Fuller, the goalkeeper for Vanderbilt’s Southeastern Conference champion women’s soccer team, to start in its game at Missouri.
Fuller remained on the roster for Vanderbilt’s next game against Tennessee on Dec. 12, and successfully kicked an extra point. The team’s final game against Georgia was scheduled to be played on Saturday, Dec. 19, but has already been canceled for COVID-19-related reasons. Fuller’s kicking career is now likely over after two games, but not without already making a major impact.
Anchor Down! 🏈
And catch Vandy soccer game next season ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/OzlMkLs8Um
— Sarah Fuller (@SarahFuller_27) December 15, 2020
Jackie Neary, the head coach of Cabrini’s women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams and the school’s Title IX deputy, was happy to see Fuller get the opportunity to play football. Fuller’s first appearance sparked a conversation about the involvement of women in sports amongst Neary’s family.
“I just feel like it was a really neat weekend for anybody who enjoys watching sports and they have a daughter,” Neary said.
Morgan Fazzini, a member of the women’s lacrosse and cross country teams, was also glad to see Fuller break the barrier that she did.
“My initial thoughts were that it was finally time for a woman to be more involved in football,” the junior exercise science and heath promotion major said. “I know that it is a big step and can lead to a lot more women wanting to play.”
Fazzini said she also looks forward to the progress that could be seen as a result of Fuller playing Division I football, believing it could help make the sport more inclusive.
“… It may lead to more women wanting to play what has always been considered a ‘men’s sport,'” she said.
Neary agreed that Fuller’s football debut was a sign of progress, but also said that progress for women will need to continue to take place in sports and throughout the rest of the world.
“I just think, in anything going on in the world, it’s good to see that females can break that ceiling,” Neary said.
“For me personally,” she said, “I’d love to see more women in positions of leadership. … I think women have a lot to offer — both on and off the field.”
While there is still work to be done, Neary and Fazzini both agree that Fuller’s appearance for Vanderbilt was a historic moment for college athletics and helped show to a large audience that women do belong in sports.
“It makes me proud to be in college athletics and watch this happen because it is proving that women are still fighting for equality,” Fazzini said. “I feel like I am watching history before me.”