Shelby Samperton sat on a porch swing at Georgetown Visitation prep school last month, following the day's field hockey practice. Just a few yards from the fields at the Northwest school, the Visitation senior talked about field hockey, family and goals--both the kind set and the kind scored. She has realized many of the former and tallied more of the latter than any player in school history.
If there is one player who many feel has a chance to eclipse Samperton's stature at Visitation, it is her sister Corey, who was seated next to her on the swing. Corey Samperton, two years younger than her sister and roommate, sat silently as Shelby talked. The conversation turned to Melissa Hayes, a two-time All-Met who, until Shelby's emergence, was unquestionably the best player Visitation had ever produced. Hayes, a cousin of the Samperton sisters, graduated in 1995 and went on to a successful college career at Virginia.
"It's definitely something I try to live up to," Shelby said of Hayes's legacy. "She's left a lot of legacy everywhere."
A new chapter to the Samperton legacy could be added Thursday, when the No. 7 Cubs (12-2-1) begin play in the Independent School League tournament. Not surprisingly, winning the tournament is one of the goals Shelby has set this season. Another is to be awarded with her second All-Met selection. After breaking Hayes's Visitation record for career goals (she has 53--including 11 this season--eclipsing the old mark of 46), another All-Met pick would seem to be a good bet.
Shelby and Corey, a sophomore link who has four goals and six assists this season, are the only two players in the 13-year tenure of Coach Anne Weaver to play varsity as freshmen. And Weaver is keenly aware of the chemistry the sisters have on the field.
"They work incredibly well together," Weaver said. "I've had sister combinations on my team in the past where the older one sort of doesn't want anything to do with the other. But Shelby and Corey are so good together."
What makes them so good is a combination of ability and experience. Both have an almost uncanny field sense, an awareness of where they and their teammates are at all times, and tremendous stick-handling ability. These are skills that were developed long before Shelby arrived at Visitation when Hayes convinced Shelby, whose family lived on the same street in Bethesda, to practice with her.
"[Shelby] was going into eighth grade and had played for a couple of years," Hayes wrote via e-mail from Seville, Spain, where she is pursuing postgraduate studies. "The Virginia coaches had sent us workouts which included drills. Shelby would go and do the drills with me. I needed a partner and she wanted to practice. She was a good player from the start, but I think her willingness to practice made her even better."
"She's kind of been like my older sister to look up to," Shelby Samperton said of Hayes. Hayes's influence might also extend to Shelby's college choice--she is seriously thinking of going to Virginia, although Georgetown and Notre Dame are high on her list.
Talk about the family legacy, however, is nothing new for Shelby and Corey. The sisters are part of a sports-immersed family that boasts a list of notable athletes. Their father, Todd Samperton, was an All-Met soccer player at St. Albans in 1966. Grandfather Jack Samperton was named to the 1941 All-Met football team from Central (Md.) and was selected as the Touchdown Club's high school player of the year. Their grandfather on their mother's side, James Fitzgerald, was the Maryland junior amateur golf champion at age 16.
Shelby and Corey's mother, Mipper, is one of six siblings, all but one of whom still lives in the area. There are 20 first cousins that live in town, the oldest of whom is 23; the youngest of whom is 3. It's something of a family tradition for all the cousins and their parents to spend summers at Sherwood Forest, a community along the Severn River near Annapolis that has an eight-week sports program, which includes tennis and golf, among other sports.
"[My parents] got us into sports really early," Corey said. "We don't really play instruments or anything."
Said Mipper Samperton: "It kind of defines the family."