A shoulder to lean on

UK soccer veteran helps her sister make a smooth transition on and off the softball field

By Bobby ReaganFor many freshmen, the idea of going away for college can be intimidating at times. For student-athletes, it can be downright scary.

Balancing schoolwork with daily practices, games and road trips can be a daunting task for first-year players. Until 1972, the NCAA barred freshman from playing in varsity sports so they could get acclimated with their first year at college, but rules changed and freshmen eventually became mainstays on collegiate teams.

Without a year to adjust, freshmen often struggle on the field as they balance their new lifestyle in college. Fortunately for freshman third baseman Annie Rowlands, she’s had a shoulder to lean on in her first year at UK — her sister Kate Rowlands, a former UK soccer player.

Despite completing her athletic career with the women’s soccer team in the fall, Kate Rowlands remains at UK while she finishes her degree. With Kate nearby on campus, Annie said her freshman transition has been a lot smoother than expected.

“Having Kate here makes everything about college that much easier,” Annie Rowlands said. “If I ever got the slightest bit homesick, I would call her and she’d be there to talk to me about it since she has been through it too.”

Throughout Annie Rowlands’ first season on the softball team, Kate Rowlands has been there to help her sister get through a tough loss or just to get away from school and athletics. The sisters try to get together at least once a week for dinner or at church, but they admit it hasn’t always been easy with the daily regimen of practices, games and school.

“I know I can call her whenever I need to, though, and can go over to her house to get away from everything,” Annie Rowlands said.

And like most freshmen, there have been times when Annie Rowlands has wanted to do exactly that: get away from everything. Heading into the Cats’ doubleheader tonight against Louisiana State, she’s struggled at the plate where she is hitting .176 with nine RBIs.

Despite her sister’s woes at the plate, Kate Rowlands isn’t worried. Given Annie Rowland’s past success — she was named first team All-Ohio in high school — and the fact that she’s just a freshman, Kate Rowlands expects her younger sister’s numbers to quickly shoot up.

“Annie has a ton of potential,” Kate Rowlands said. “She’s fought through adversity before, and there’s no doubt in my mind she’ll bounce back from her slump now.”

Kate Rowlands said she went through ups and downs during her soccer career until her senior year, when she scored two goals and recorded an assist.

Annie Rowlands will likely experience the roller-coaster ride of athletics throughout her collegiate career, but enduring the tough times always makes the successful moments that much sweeter, her sister said.

The sisters come from a line of college athletes. Their brother Tommy Rowlands was a wrestler at Ohio State, and their sister Meghan Rowlands played softball at Ohio State as well. Their sister-in-law Elizabeth Rowlands was a soccer player for the Cats from 1999 to 2003.

“I try to give Annie as much advice as I can, but I’m sure she’s heard it all before,” Kate Rowlands said. “Our siblings have always been there for each other, and we just pass the advice down the line trying to help each other be as successful as possible.”

Kate Rowlands is scheduled to graduate in December, which both sisters say they’re not prepared for.

“I don’t think I’m ready for her to go, because I think I take it for granted that she’s here now,” Annie Rowlands said. “Once she leaves, I think I’ll get truly homesick for the first time, because I won’t have family to turn to right away.”