Sarah Vande Berg was a kid at heart and a Disney fanatic. For her 21st birthday she wanted to celebrate with a trip to Disney and she was focused on using a degree in communications to land her dream job at the happiest place on Earth. An accomplished tennis player who first picked up a racket at age seven, Sarah passed away in the early morning hours on Sunday, October 11 following a car accident that claimed the lives of three other USC Upstate students and left one student in stable condition.
“Sarah was a wonderful daughter,” said Todd Vande Berg from his home in Zephyrhills, Fla. “She had an outgoing personality and she truly loved people. Sarah went to all the athletic events at USC Upstate to show support for all the sports. We witnessed her love for her fellow student athletes and their amazing support for her when we attended her tennis match two weeks ago. There were athletes from cross country, basketball and volleyball at Sarah’s tennis match.”
Sarah played tennis at Zephyrhills High School where she served as team captain and lettered all four years. She was a senior at USC Upstate majoring in communication.
USC Upstate tennis head coach Dr. Oliver Trittenwein said, “Sarah was one of my first recruits since moving to USC Upstate and one of the first American recruits. She immediately fit in and bonded with the team. She was very personable and loved by the men’s and women’s teams. She always made an effort with the new girls to the team and she would drive them to the grocery store and to go shopping. All the girls loved her and liked her and in turn, she cared for them.”
Michael Buchanan, a basketball player, said he remembers the first time he met Sarah. It was his first weekend at USC Upstate. “Sarah always had a smile on her face and was genuinely happy to see you,” Buchanan said. “She was the first person that weekend that came up to say hello to me.”
Buchanan said their friendship grew and that they would often laugh about their freshman year and people who had come and gone during their time as athletes. But he said they shared a lot of laughs and a lot of fun.
“She was a great person in general,” he said. “She was always up for doing anything and she never really got mad at you. Like this one time, my teammate Tristen and I told her if she didn’t stop messing with us we were going to pick her up and put her in the garbage can. We picked her up and started walking towards the garbage can and she just laughed.”
Buchanan said he will miss joking around with her and her witty comebacks.
Sarah is survived by parents, Charla and Todd Vande Berg, her sister, Emily and grandmother, Nadine Pierce. She was a member at New Walk Church.
USC Upstate Chancellor Tom Moore said, “There are no words to describe this loss to the USC Upstate family and no way to comfort the grieving families who have lost their loved ones. This tragedy will have tremendous impact on the Upstate community, individually and collectively.”
USC Upstate will hold a candlelight vigil on Monday, October 12 at 7 p.m. in the soccer stadium.