Sam Rippley could well be the definition of a "multisport athlete" after playing five sports during her time at Palmer Ridge. But it was the last sport she participated in that helped her earn the most recognition.
When Palmer Ridge coach Kristy Opresko first laid eyes on Rippley on the lacrosse field, she knew she had a player on her hands.
"Wow. This girl is so athletic and she works so hard," Opresko said about her first reaction.
According to Opresko, who has since stepped down since the season ended, Rippley had such a drive to be great that a coach couldn't teach.
Rippley, The Gazette Girls' Lacrosse Peak Performer of the Year, led Palmer Ridge in points (69) and goals (47), and had a 54.2 shooting percentage.
While the statistics support the reasoning behind Rippley winning the honor, it was the little things the midfielder did that made her one of the best players in Colorado. Rippley, who normally shoots right-handed, learned how to shoot with her left this season. She also incorporated a shot fake that helped her succeed.
"She is an all-around player, which I think makes her one of the best in the league and one of the best in the state," Opresko said. "She plays amazing defense. She is aggressive. She has great stick skills. She is great on goals, but her statistics in other categories that don't get much attention such as draw control and just a general ability to put her on a strong attacker as a defender and she can shut them down, those things don't show up in statistics. She is very good at all aspects of the game."
Although Opresko considers Rippley to be one of the best in the state, she believes that she has a ways to go in terms of tactical skills.
Opresko really credits Rippley's success to her athleticism. Once Rippley sets foot onto Davidson's campus, where Rippley will play lacrosse next season, Opresko believes Rippley will open quite a few eyes.
"I think she still has a lot of work to do on the tactical skills and she is going to get there when she plays Division I at Davidson," Opresko said. "You really can't teach athleticism and you can't teach that competitive drive to always want to improve and always wanting to play your best. She keeps improving. I think with some more time and (when she) has a chance to just concentrate on lacrosse, she is probably going to amaze us."
While Rippley might turn into one of the best college lacrosse players once she focuses on the sport, it will be awhile until Palmer Ridge replaces her skills.
"There is going to be a huge void, especially in Palmer Ridge's midfield when she goes," Opresko said. "But it's going to be very difficult to fill in her shoes. I don't honestly think it's possible. Palmer Ridge is definitely losing someone that they probably won't replace anytime soon."