Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There was shock and emotion when Sarah (Lynch) Fishbune received word she would be inducted into the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame.
Fishbune, who starred for the University of Iowa women’s soccer program from 1999-2002, will be the first Hawkeye soccer player to earn the Hall of Fame distinction.
“This is something I never expected or thought about,” said Fishbune. “I was crying when I received the call, it doesn’t seem real. It is such an honor and it was so cool to think back to when I played. It has been fun to reminisce with former teammates.”
Fishbune will be one of seven inductees into the 30th National Iowa Varsity Club Hall of Fame class Aug. 31 at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. Tickets to the event, which is open to the public, can be purchased at hawkeyesports.com/HOFtickets.
When Fishbune was finishing her all-state career in St. Charles, Illinois, the Hawkeyes had an inside track to landing her services. Fishbune’s older sister, Stephanie, was in the midst of her first season with the program when Iowa called.
“I am a sucker for family,” said Fishbune. “They had recruited her the year before and I wanted to be her teammate and play with her again. (Iowa City) was also close to St. Charles; I wanted to be close enough to my hometown where my family could watch us play.”
Fishbune remembers when head coach Stephanie Gabbert and assistant coach Ron Rainey came to St. Charles for an in-home visit.
“They were sitting down with me and my parents and proceeded to offer me the first full-ride scholarship for women’s soccer,” said Fishbune. “I was stunned and so appreciative. I wasn’t expecting it and when it happened, I felt honored and knew I wanted to be a Hawkeye.”
Fishbune’s first season was one to remember. In just the third year of the program’s existence, Iowa won 13 games and finished third in the Big Ten standings. The team went 7-3 in Big Ten play to qualify for its first Big Ten Tournament.
“I remember coming in as a freshman and not even caring that it was college and how different it would be from high school,” said Fishbune. “I came in during the summer, started camp, and was excited to get the chance to earn playing time.”
Fishbune was more than a contributor, she was the star. Fishbune led the team with 15 goals — a total that still stands as the school record. She earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, the first of three such honors in her Hawkeye career.
“I was hungry and excited,” said Fishbune. “I was playing with two or three other girls from my high school, so there was that sense of familiarity in playing with girls I had grown up with. We were excited to come to a new program, be the unknown, and see what we could do.”
A lot of Fishbune’s favorite Iowa memories came from that first season. An October home game against Penn State stands out. The Hawkeyes lost 3-2 in overtime to the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions, but it was the postgame message from Penn State head coach Patrick Farmer that stands out.
“We lost that game, but I scored on a breakaway goal and I kind of took out the goalkeeper,” said Fishbune. “At the end of the game, (Farmer) stopped me and told me I was a special player. I was like, ‘Am I?'”
“That was never on my mind, my goals were to play, have fun, and bring success to the Iowa program. To have a coach like that stop me, the compliment was cool.”
Iowa won 43 games during Fishbune’s four-year career and qualified for three Big Ten Tournaments. She finished her career with 46 goals, 20 assists, 20 game-winning goals, and 112 points. She holds the school record for career points, goals, and game-winning goals.
“Looking back, I think holy smokes,” Fishbune says of her records. “At the time I wasn’t thinking about it or didn’t care. Even being done for so long, I never looked back. It’s humbling to see that I have these records; it takes my breath away.
“I had a great four-year career and a great experience playing collegiate sports. I wouldn’t change a thing. This Hall of Fame honor is the cherry on top of the sundae. It’s incredible.”
Post-college, Fishbune was a high school guidance counselor and a soccer coach for seven years before her life changed. She suffered a heart attack in January of 2010 with an artery that was 99 percent blocked. She stepped away from coaching and a new perspective followed.
“I stepped away from coaching and playing to deal with the changes that the heart attack brought in my life,” said Fishbune. “It was a scary experience that made me appreciate the fact I played soccer and loved every minute of it, especially at Iowa. I loved playing soccer.”
These days, Fishbune is a stay-at-home-mother to Macy (6-years-old), Charlotte (4), and Nolan (2). The Fishbune family will grow to six in November when she and her husband, Matt, will welcome the birth of their fourth child — a boy.
“My kids are young, so they don’t understand what this means, but my husband keeps telling me how great this is for when our kids get older to be able to show them,” said Fishbune. “I am humbled, proud, and thankful.
“I knew Iowa was the right choice for me when I committed. To go there and have the career I did, the teammates and memories and nearly 20 years later get a call saying I am going to be the first soccer player inducted, it’s amazing.”