The pool of tears brimming up in Sammie Shiflette‘s eyes were appropriate but not expected following Friday’s Virginia AAA Northern Region girls’ soccer championship.
The Chantilly senior midfielder had every reason to be emotional. She and her Charger teammates had just won the school’s second region crown, thanks in part to Shiflette’s assist on the decisive goal of a 2-1 win against Yorktown. Still, no one — not her teammates, not her coach, not even her father — had ever seen Shiflette cry. After seven games, the pain of a hairline ankle fracture had finally become too much.
“I try not to think about it but on some plays, it really hurts,” said Shiflette, who sustained the injury in an April 29 win against Forest Park. “[Friday] I got kicked in the foot and it puffed up on me. But this is the finals, so there was no way I wasn’t going to play.”
The injury isn’t expected to sideline Shiflette for Tuesday’s state quarterfinal against Colonial Forge, either. Some, like the doctor who advised her to stay off the ankle for two weeks, might call this move a stubborn one. But from the Chargers’ current contention for the state title to her 11th-hour walk-on commitment to Radford, Shiflette has seen her determined spirit pay off too much for her to give in now.
Prior to her senior year, after transferring from South County to Chantilly as a junior, Shiflette had received minimal interest from college coaches. The situation often puzzled Shiflette, what with her being a member of the highly talented FC Virginia club team that featured 15 players committed to the likes of Penn State, Virginia Tech, James Madison and Delaware.
“All of my teammates were committed somewhere and I wasn’t, but it was my fault somewhat,” Shiflette admitted. “When you go out to club tournaments, there are so many college coaches and I should have emailed them and reached out to them more.”
With help from FC Virginia Coach Paul Ellis and Chantilly Coach Melissa Bibbee, Shiflette became more aggressive in the recruiting process. Once Radford started showing interest, the senior made sure not to make the same mistake as before, emailing Coach Ben Sohrabi often until he made the trip to see Shiflette play. From there, her strong foot skills and sound passing did the rest, leading the Highlanders to offer her a walk-on spot in February, a few days before her 18th birthday.
“You do see fast dribblers, but it’s not often you see fast dribblers that can keep the ball under control like Sammie,” Chargers teammate Laila Gray said. “She’s the backbone of our offensive attack.”
Though she’s hobbled, Shiflette knows any contribution she can make will be key as the Chargers prepare to chase their second state title in this week’s tournament.
“It’s been a long journey to reach this point with my college process and all the hard work we’ve put in as a team to win region,” Shiflette said. “I just hope now we can finish off at state, like the 2009 team did.”