When one looks back on the success of the Lee University women’s soccer program over the past 16 years, it is easy to see what sisters have provided. Records show the surge began in 2001 and continues today with senior Summer and freshman Anna Lanter (former Soddy Daisy High School standouts) helping spark the Lady Flames to a current 8-4 overall mark and 7-2 in the rugged Gulf South Conference standing.
Summer has tallied eight goals this season and five were game winners. Anna quickly earned a spot in the starting lineup and rotates between defender and midfield. Anna is a mirror image of her older sister Clair, who helped the Lady Flames begin their run to four consecutive NAIA National Championships from 2008-2011.
Along the way siblings registered NAIA All-American honors. The first was Janaina Novaes, who continues to hold the Lee career goal record (118) and her sister Luana (2004-08); All-American defender Rachel Tuck and sister Kristine followed (2006-10).
The Lady Flames were blessed with four All-American sisters during their national championship runs. A set of twins from Norway, Linn and Christiane Christensen, joined with Jenna and Jamie Achten to put the Lee squads in the national headlines. Jamie Achten was the most decorated of all; a two-time NAIA Player of the Year and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Athlete of the Year. Her jersey was retired in 2012 and her 91 career assists still remains an NAIA record.
“We never really set out to recruit sisters as a part of our recruiting strategy but once we started having a group of sisters come through the program we realized it was a really good fit to what we tried to accomplish within our teams,” explained former head coach Matt Yelton who directed the Lady Flames to a 252-42-11 record and four consecutive NAIA national crowns. “One of the areas we always focused on was trying to create a family atmosphere within the team, having sisters within the team certainly helped build that type of environment.
“I always believed it was a good sign that the program was headed in the right direction when a younger sister made the choice to attend Lee and be a part of the women’s soccer program,” the highly successful coach noted. “If the older sister wasn’t happy with the team, the younger sister certainly wasn’t going to choose Lee.
“We had a fantastic run of sisters playing for us and they all represented the team and school remarkably well on and off the field. We were extremely fortunate to have these girls play for us and each and every one of them played a pivotal role in the development of the Lee soccer program, concluded Yelton."
These ladies not only helped put Lee on the national map with the championship runs, they departed from the NAIA and stepped up to NCAA Division II, leaving with nine straight appearance in the NAIA nationals and a 96-game conference (TranSouth, SSAC) winning streak. Add all the conference and region tournament titles to the mix and you see why there are many Lee women’s soccer records remaining unbroken in the NAIA archives.
The move to NCAA D2 was another challenge for the sisters and Lee women’s soccer, but they immediately made their presence felt, even during the two-year provisional status leading into full membership in the Gulf South Conference (GSC) and NCAA. Since 2013 the Lady Flames are 57-17-8 against all D2 opponents and 41-8-5 in the rugged GSC. They claimed an unofficial GSC regular-season title during a provisional year in 2014. Under the guidance of head coach Chris Hennessey the Lady Flames have earned two consecutive NCAA D2 national tournament berths.
Said Clair Lanter, the older sister who was an All-American defender, All-American Scholar and a member of three national championship teams: “The Lee soccer coach at the time, Matt Yelton, was my club coach so he sparked my interest early on. He was a fantastic coach so I knew I would enjoy continuing
playing for him.
“Being very competitive, I also loved that the soccer team was successful, and I wanted a chance to compete at a high level. I tell people all the time that I should be a spokesperson for Lee. I only have wonderful things to say and look back with the fondest memories. I loved the family that I developed on the soccer team, but I equally valued my time as a political science major. I was fortunate enough to have kind, thoughtful, and brilliant professors that invested in me as a student and person. They were able to add immeasurable value to my life in a short amount of time.
“I had wonderful four years at Lee,” she added. I will never forget how special it was each time we won nationals. To accomplish a goal with a group of individuals you love is truly a remarkable feeling. I was blessed to be able to experience it three times.”
Summer Lanter joined the conversation. “I looked at many different colleges before deciding I wanted to attend Lee,” she commented. The gifted forward enters her final Lee season as a D2 All-American and the 2015 GSC co-player of the year. “At first I wasn’t really considering Lee because I didn’t want to follow in Clair’s footsteps. After visiting many different universities, including Lee, I decided that Lee was where I was going to feel the most at home. Once I was on campus I quickly found out it was awesome following in Clair’s footsteps because everyone loved her. Even though she was gone when I came to school, being her sister made me feel like the cool kid on campus.”
Anna had known for several years that Lee was pretty much in her plan since Clair's freshman year at the university. “My parents fell in love with the school and pushed for me and Summer to attend Lee. I was always hesitant to follow my siblings because I have always been known as either Clair's or Summer’s little sister. All the (Lee) girls were so great and I was impressed that they prayed together and for each other. That's what sealed the deal for me.”
Soccer is a family affair with the Lanters. When the oldest daughter Page decided she wanted to learn and play the growing game, father Greg, decided it was time to get involved. Their mother, Jena, quickly joined in to supply plenty of support for the father and her four children.
“Our daughters worked extremely hard and we sought excellent instructions,” she explained. “They all have very competitive personalities and good work rates so they improved quickly. We were fortunate that they gravitated to different positions on the field and didn’t feel pressure to out play their sisters. They share a common bond and similar
experiences and that has made them very close.”
“As parents, it has been a fantastic ride and wonderful to watch,” said the father. “We have witnessed hard losses with teary finishes, and “over the top” happy victories with fantastic teammates. There have been many “glory” moments with each daughter.
“Along the way we met and loved the soccer coach (Yelton) at Lee. He persuaded Clair to play for him. Lee was a perfect fit for our family. Clair grew intellectually and spiritually. The university developed the whole person and Clair grew in wisdom and compassion. The person graduating from Lee was even better than the one we sent to Lee.
“We have watched Summer grow and mature in a very similar manner, once quiet and shy she has grown stronger, more confident, and even bold when speaking the truth,” the father added. “We are very thankful for the guidance and instruction of godly professors that have invested much into the person she is becoming. We could not be more pleased with the education and college experiences our daughters are receiving at Lee. We are excited and look forward to four more years with Anna.”
“The Lanters have brought much more than soccer to the program and to Lee over the years,” remarked current coach Chris Hennessey. “The entire family has been very supportive both on campus and in the community. They are at every game, no matter the location. I am personally very thankful for all the support they have given the team during the past few years.”