Baylor's Peyton Thomas to sign with UT

Baylor's Peyton Thomas to sign with UT

February 8th, 2012 by Gene Henley in Sports - Preps

Baylor midfielder Peyton Thomas has decided to play for the University of Tennessee.

Baylor midfielder Peyton Thomas has decided to play...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

For Peyton Thomas, a little change led to a big one in her college plans.

The Baylor soccer midfielder had committed with her twin sister to Samford University but then decided to play at Tennessee on scholarship.

Thomas, who had 10 goals and eight assists in 2011 as the Lady Red Raiders repeated their Division II-AA state championship, said she was swayed by the Lady Vols' hiring of former Maryland coach Brian Pensky.

"I was sitting with my family in a cabin in Gatlinburg when I heard about [UT coach] Angela Kelly leaving for Texas," Thomas said. "When they hired Coach Pensky, that played a big part in my decision. I feel he's the best thing that has happened to that program in a long time."

Thomas ultimately chose the Lady Vols over Arkansas. Her older sister Abby and their mom attended Tennessee.

"I knew I was attracted to bigger schools," she said. "I grew up watching Tennessee all the time; it's my favorite college place. I was attracted to Samford because of soccer, and when I decommitted I didn't know if there were any other options, but I had been in contact with some schools."

The hardest part about the decision was choosing not to play with twin McKenzie. Both will do their actual signings on Feb. 16.

"I've never been on a team without McKenzie. As far as I can remember, I've played behind her in the midfield," Peyton said. "I knew this decision would mean we would be away from each other, but it had to happen sometime. I think the distance will make us closer."

Peyton noted that the Lady Vols' first game of the 2012 season will be against Samford.

Six players from Baylor's nationally No. 3-ranked team are headed to NCAA Division I teams. Teni Butler recently committed to Arkansas, while Chloe Brackett, who had committed to Pittsburgh, is deciding between the Lady Panthers and Ole Miss.

"I developed as a player because I was surrounded by good players," Peyton Thomas said. "I was lucky to be on a team with so many athletes, and we were all so close. We've all played together for a long time and became comfortable with each other.

"If I hadn't played with those kinds of players, I wouldn't be the player I am today."