CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Sets of sisters have been instrumental in the remarkable success of the Lee University women's soccer program the past 16 years, and that is continuing this season with former Soddy-Daisy High School standouts Summer and Anna Lanter.
Summer, a senior forward, has nine goals and five game-winners for the Lady Flames, who are 10-4 overall and 9-2 in the rugged Gulf South Conference. Her freshman sibling quickly became a starter and rotates between defender and midfield.
Anna reminds many of their older sister Clair, an All-America defender who helped the Lady Flames begin their run to four consecutive NAIA national championships starting in 2008. She was part of three of those.
The oldest Lanter sister, Paige, played for Samford University.
Lee's run of sister stars began with NAIA All-American Janaina Novaes, who holds the program record of 118 career goals, and Luanna Novaes and All-America defender Rachel Tucck and Kristine Tuck. The string of national titles included Norwegian twins Linn and Christiane Christensen and Tennesseans Jena and Jamie Achten — all four All-Americans.
Jamie Achten was a two-time national player of the year and a Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame female athlete of the year whose 91 career assists remain 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," said former coach Matt Yelton, who had a 252-42-11 record at Lee. "One of the areas we always focused on was trying to create a family atmosphere within the team, and 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. If the older sister wasn't happy with the team, the younger sister certainly wasn't going to choose Lee."
Clair Lanter played club soccer for Yelton and considered him "a fantastic coach." As she made her college choice, she said recently, "I also loved that the soccer team was successful, and I wanted a chance to compete at a high level."
The success continued with the school's move up to NCAA Division II. Since 2013 the Lady Flames are 59-17-8 against all D-II opponents and 43-8-5 in the GSC. They claimed an unofficial GSC regular-season title during a provisional year in 2014, and with Chris Hennessey as head coach they have earned two consecutive national tournament berths.
Praising her teachers as well as her soccer coaches and teammates, Clair Lanter said, "I only have wonderful things to say and look back with the fondest memories. ... I had a wonderful four years at Lee."
Said Summer, an All-American and GSC co-player of the year in 2016: "I looked at many different colleges before deciding I wanted to attend Lee. At first I wasn't really considering Lee because I didn't want to follow in Clair's footsteps."
But she couldn't help feeling it was "where I was going to feel the most at home," she said. "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."
Lee was pretty much in Anna's 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," she said. "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."
Greg and Jena Lanter indeed have loved the Lee influence on their daughters.
"As parents it has been a fantastic ride and wonderful to watch. ... Lee was a perfect fit for our family," the father said. "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. We are very thankful for the guidance and instruction of godly professors that have invested much into the person she is becoming. ... We are excited and look forward to four more years with Anna."