Senior midfielder mothers Sandy soccer squad
Sam O'Connor leads a young, inexperienced team
Thirteen. That's the number of kids in Sandy High School student Sam O'Connor's family.
'I have one brother, one sister, six step-sisters, (and) one step-brother,' says O'Connor. 'And then my dad's girlfriend has three daughters.'
O'Connor, the only senior on the Sandy girls soccer team, clearly enjoys her unique relationship with all 12 children.
And she seems to be quite comfortable leading a very young girls soccer team as well.
'I think she's really stepped up to be the leader, the mom,' says coach Tom Sommer. 'A lot of the girls follow her.'
Luckily for O'Connor, she doesn't have to lead all by herself.
O'Connor points to Sommer's daughter Katie, a junior on the team, as a good friend and capable co-leader.
'She's really, really knowledgeable about the game,' says O'Connor.
O'Connor, Katie Sommer and teammates Annalisa Peterson and Mallory Wiseman are all friends off the field, which leads to a unique synergy on the field.
'I think they really enjoy each others' company,' says Tom Sommer, noting that it's tough to keep track of whose house the girls are at on any given night.
O'Connor admits as much.
'I hang out with friends a lot,' she says.
A center-midfielder for the Pioneers, O'Connor is getting her first crack at offense this year after a lifetime of defensive experience.
And while she likes the freedom of playing on offense, O'Connor says she probably feels more comfortable with the game's defensive element, having dealt with it since she began playing soccer in third grade.
Surprisingly, she won't pursue soccer - or basketball, which she also plays for the Pioneers - when college calls in the fall.
And speaking of college, which university will 'Sam O' consider most strongly?
'I'm looking at Linfield right now,' O'Connor says. 'But we'll see how that goes.'
A career in physical therapy - with an emphasis on sports medicine - is O'Connor's desired career path at this point.
Eventually, O'Connor aspires to have her own sports medicine practice.
When asked about professional athletes she looks up to, O'Connor immediately mentions Miami Heat shooting guard Dwayne Wade.
'He is absolutely amazing,' she says. 'Pretty much a stud all around.'
And O'Connor also speaks highly of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whom her mom ardently follows.
On the local front, O'Connor keeps things optimistic when discussing her young teammates.
'We have a solid group of incoming freshman,' she says.
And if leading that young batch of recruits ever gets hectic, well, O' Connor can always fall back on her years of experience in a huge family.
'They all seem like good kids,' says Tom Sommer.'A good, big family. They have a lot of fun.'
'I'm so lucky to have her; she's a great girl,' adds Cindy Smith, 'The Mom''s mom.