When the women's basketball team from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) took the court this week against Rider University it was Howell's Sarah Olson leading the Highlanders out of the tunnel.
After a successful career with the Rebels Olson has become a key leader of the Newark school helping them compete against not only the top teams in their conference but in the state. "It's crazy," she said of making the transition from Group IV with Howell to Division I with NJIT. "It's a whole new world. It's really tough but I have great girls on the team that have helped me."
Olson's first year was a learning and ended with Head Coach Margaret McKeon resigning following a 13-17 campaign. Under first-year Coach Steve Lanpher she said the team is thriving. "We've got a great team, no one left, everyone's back and we're looking really good this year."
The year so far featured a three point loss against Seton Hall where Olson scored a game-high 20 points for her team. She also had an eight point performance in a game that the Highlanders held on until the very end to top the Broncs.
Lanpher said from the time he met Olson over the summer he knew she would be a key member of the team showing "all out hustle," and being "a great teammate."
He has also seen a lot of maturity in her game from where she was as a freshman. "She's playing much better team defense and rebounding the basketball," he said. "She's a great shooter, she attacks well and she's a vocal leader."
NJIT is one of the newest Division I schools having only made the move a few years ago but Olson and Lanpher said they are proud of the fact that they are now competing against some of the more established teams in the state. "It's something we want. The first year we're trying to set the tone and establish the foundation," Lanpher said. "We're going to work hard every single day."
Olson also said the lessons she learned at Howell have helped her at the next level. "Hard work pays off and always keep your head up," she said of her time with the Rebels.
Much like her time with Rebels Olson spends most of the game on the floor working to help her team. "Unless I need one, I don't want one," she said of taking a break during the game. "I think I matured a little bit and I'm making better decisions."
In addition to her time on the court Olson said she is also learning to balance her time in the classroom. "It's tough," she said of the demands from both sides of her life. "I'm in the honors college so I'm taking honors classes but you get through it. You have a lot of help."