By Lee Adams/The Itawamba County Times
Lara Andrews may appear to be the average freshman softball player at Itawamba Community College, but her road to ICC was anything but average.
Lara’s journey started at the age of nine when she started playing softball with her brothers in her hometown of Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand.
Growing up, Lara watched her father play rugby so naturally she became a tough competitor.
Unlike the youth leagues here, Lara grew up playing with and against women in their 20-40’s from stay at home moms to Olympic athletes.
Two years after high school, Lara created a player profile and a youtube account to try and find her way to the U.S. to get an education and play softball.
Bellhaven College head softball coach Rick Fremin saw some of the videos and contacted ICC head coach Chad Case.
Case got Lara to come to ICC without a campus visit or seeing her play in person, which are two things that normally have to happen before signing a player.
“We both pretty much rolled the dice,” said Lara. “We had never seen, met or talked to each other, and I had never seen the school or even been to the state, but here I was.”
“Finding Lara wasn’t an easy task,” said Case. “Coach Fremin helped me with that and we appreciate his help.”
Just like every other ICC freshman, Lara had to adjust to her new home, but in her case, she wasn’t able to drive an hour to see her parents.
The ICC family made sure she had everything she needed when she arrived. She was set to start working on her education and playing softball.
The adjustment to her new surroundings was made easier by her outgoing personality, and she clicked with her teammates.
“She came over here, and everybody has just fell in love with her,” said Case. “She’s just a joy to be around.”
“The girls don’t know how much they influence me,” said Lara. “Even though we clash heads a little bit, we have all meshed together and always back each other up on and off the field.”
Lara has adjusted well to ICC but still gets homesick like other college students.
“My family is the most important thing in my life,” said Lara. “I know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. You don’t really know what family means until you leave them. The first thing I did when I got here was get a phone so I could text and call them.”
“The thing that keeps us together is our love, and as long as I know they are happy and smiling, I’m good.”
Lara has given her family plenty to smile about as she has controlled third base all season for ICC and helped lead the Lady Indians to a North Division title.
“Lara has been a tremendous asset to our softball program,” said Case. “I don’t think many people could do what she has done, moving to the other side of the world and adjusting this well.”
The Lady Indians have been preparing for the post season, but Lara, who will return to ICC next year, has big plans for her future as she will be competing this summer in the ISF XII Women’s World Championship in Caracas, Venezuela, as a member of the New Zealand national team.
Lara also hopes the Olympics will put softball back into the summer games, so she can have a chance to compete for her country. If softball isn’t put back in, she will give rugby a try.
As for now, Lara will keep her focus on softball as the Lady Indians will host the State Tournament starting Thursday at 12 p.m.