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Burrell senior soccer player commits to VMI

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 11:21 p.m.
Burrell soccer standout Sam Shepherd
Burrell soccer standout Sam Shepherd

Sam Shepherd took it upon herself to land a college soccer scholarship. And she did most of the recruiting.

Shepherd, a senior defender at Burrell, worked on a class project last fall where students had to research a college and report back via podcast.

Her school: Virginia Military Institute.

After realizing she liked everything about VMI, including its chemistry program and the fact it fields women's soccer, she contacted the coach and expressed interest in the program.

Maybe now she should get extra credit. Her assignment earned her a spot on the VMI team along with a partial scholarship.

She has given the Division I program a verbal commitment and will sign a letter of intent in February.

“I reached out to them,” said Shepherd, who also had interest from Bucknell, Allegheny and Pitt Greensburg, among others. “I emailed the coach, and he came out to see me play. It kind of went from there.”

A midfielder who had three goals and eight assists as a freshman, she has played mainly defender as a junior and senior. She moved to defense out of necessity for the Bucs (2-3), who played strong defensive halves against Knoch and Mars.

“She is more of a stable influence back there,” Burrell coach Chris Harkins said.

Shepherd thinks she could play right away in college; VMI, which plays in the Big South, likes her as an outside defender.

“They started a couple of freshmen this year so they like to play you right away,” she said.

Shepherd, who played Olympic Development soccer as a sixth-grader and has been on various Cup teams including the Allegheny Force Football Club, said her commitment won't change the way she perceives the rest of her senior season. She didn't let recruiting hinder her before she committed, either.

“It doesn't change a thing,” she said. “If you think about college coaches watching you, you can mess up and make selfish plays. It's a relief to know where I am going, though.”

In a time when it's almost trendy to play multiple sports, Shepherd is a one-sport athlete, playing soccer year-round.

“I've known her since she was 6 or 7; she's always been driven to succeed in soccer,” Harkins said. “She isn't satisfied with anything but the best.”

Harkins said he sent VMI coach Bryan Williams, at his request, Shepherd's 40-yard dash times.

“He said her times were much better than any on his (current team),” Harkins said of her 5.2-second time.

Shepherd is the fifth player to move on to college soccer who had Harkins as coach.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at

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