GOSHEN — Sarah Yoder wanted to go somewhere farther away from home for college.
She ended up going less than two miles away from her high school.
After a successful athletics career at Bethany Christian High School, Yoder continued her winning ways at Goshen College. The 2005 graduate holds the women’s tennis program record for most career wins, compiling 80 of them in a four-year varsity career.
“The coach at Goshen College during that time, Sue Conrad, recruited me pretty heavily,” Yoder said. “I didn’t want to go to Goshen College; I was one of those people where I felt I needed to go farther away. But as it got closer, I visited Goshen College, met Sue Conrad and she put together a scholarship package for me that I couldn’t turn down.”
Where Yoder stood out the most was in her versatility. In her freshman season of 2001, Yoder set single-season win records at the No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles positions. She picked up 16 wins individually and won 14 doubles matches with teammate Angela Newcomer.
Doubles is where Yoder would find her home as a player. She moved up to the No. 1 doubles pairing starting in the 2002 season, finding success at that position all three years. She won 12 matches with teammate Jennifer Springer in 2002, nine with Newcomer in 2003 and nine more with Dianna Diaz in 2004.
Yoder’s 44 career doubles victories are most in program history.
“I had never played much doubles — I was a singles player in high school — so doubles was a big adjustment,” Yoder said. “It ended up being something I loved just as much as singles, mainly because you had someone to celebrate those big moments with. I really enjoyed having a teammate, and it didn’t really matter who it was because I got along with all the women on the team.”
She also had 36 singles victories, which are third-most all-time at the school.
During Yoder’s career, the Maple Leafs achieved previously unseen team success. They qualified for the NAIA Regional playoffs all four years Yoder was a player, advancing to the Region VIII finals in 2001. The team’s overall record from 2001-04 was 35-7.
“It was so exciting,” Yoder said. “I was recruited into a team that had so much talent; just a lot of great players were already there when I came in as a freshman. Sue Conrad did a great job of recruiting some really talented players. We liked to win; we worked really hard and had a lot of success.”
Yoder credits coach Leon Brenneman for her success as a player, especially in the three years he coached her. She was named an all-conference player in each of her final three seasons.
“I had been starting to feel myself burning out a little bit with tennis, and when he came in, I was re-energized,” Yoder said. “He just brought expertise and knowledge and passion for the game that I needed at that point in my life. He focused on fitness and put me in the best shape in my life, and I think that took my game to the next level.”
Following her senior season, Brenneman left as head coach. This left an opening at the position, and it was filled by none other than Yoder herself. She graduated in May 2005 and started coaching the Maple Leafs the ensuing fall sports season.
Yoder spent four years as Goshen head coach, going 20-35 overall with an 8-24 Mid-Central Conference record. She led the Maple Leafs to the Regional in 2005 and was named MCC Coach of the Year in 2006.
“I was floored by that and was really honored that the other coaches selected me for that,” said Yoder on the Coach of the Year award. “One of the biggest honors I’ve had in my tennis careers was that.”
Yoder currently lives in Goshen. She teaches pre-school kids who have special needs through the Elkhart County Special Education Corporative, primarily spending her time at Orchard View Elementary in Middlebury. She married her high school sweetheart, Seth, and they have three children: two sons, Lewis, 9, and Elliot, 7; and a daughter, Ava, 5.
Yoder was inducted into the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. She’s grateful for the life sports has been able to give her.
“I have been thankful for sports and thankful for teams; thankful for coaches and those opportunities to better my physical and mental skills,” Yoder said. “You put yourself in challenging positions and do the best you can, and I think sports and athletics are wonderful opportunities for people.”