Every college athletic program needs someone like Sam Shaffer. In fact, she is part of two Ottawa University teams.
The fifth-year senior made her mark behind the scenes for the Lady Braves basketball team. Two knee injuries curtailed her playing time, but she never gave up.
Shaffer suffered her second knee injury before the season and did not suit up until the final few games.
She did not see the court until Saturday when she started the first game of her career on Senior Day against Friends.
The West Franklin graduate played seven minutes in the 70-52 loss to Friends, but it still will be a day she will not forget.
“It was emotional,” Shaffer said. “I would not want to go out any other way. I would not want any other teammates. They are the ones that helped me through it.”
Shaffer’s message to future athletes is to keep striving.
“Never give up. You have to have that drive,” she said. “After you are done ... you are done. You have to love the game. You are not always going to have it.
“My competitiveness was there. Mentally trying to stick with it ... it was a struggle. There were times I thought about hanging up the laces. I had a lot of support from this program.”
Coach Bruce Tate said Shaffer’s impact was huge.
“This senior class ... the foundation starts with Sam Shaffer,” he said. “All the trials and tribulations she has been through. She stayed loyal for five years. She has been the voice of the program for the past few years. She has a great relationship with everyone on this team.
“That is what I expect from the captains on this team. She bought into the program. You need your leaders to do that ... to deliver your message. She has been a great recruiter. She is the one I wanted all the recruits to talk to. She will be difficult to replace from a vocal standpoint.”
Tate said during the senior ceremony what Shaffer meant to the program.
“You have the heart of a lion; have been a fierce competitor and an inspiration to all that have been teammates with you,” Tate said.
Shaffer said the bonding of the players became natural.
“Our returners are very good at welcoming the incoming freshmen,” Shaffer said. “We don’t judge people. We accept everybody.”
Tate said the players feed off each other, respect and know how to respond to each other’s emotions.
“The chemistry ... you can see it on campus,” Tate said. “When your team atmosphere is good, your recruits feel that.”
Senior Lauren Buckles was a three-point specialist, but also made an impact off the floor.
“Her character is above everyone’s on this team,” Tate said. “She does things for the right reason. She has a great relationship with God. They totally respect her for it. She brought that atmosphere to our team. She has been on the leadership circle for three years.”
Senior guard Kelsi Meier fit in right away last season coming in as a transfer.
“Most transfers can’t buy into the program that first year,” Tate said. “She made that adjustment from day one.”
Tate told the fans Meier was a team first player.
April Dowell was another transfer that fit right in from the start.
“You have been a solid competitor for us these past two seasons,” Tate said in the senior ceremony. “Your team first attitude will truly be missed.”
Chrissie Jeannin was a busy athlete. This fall she led the volleyball team to an undefeated conference title and was named an NAIA All-American as a setter. She qualified for nationals in the javelin during the spring track season.
Tate thanked Jeannin for being a part of the basketball program.
“I know it was a challenge to endure the transition from volleyball to basketball season, but I’m very glad you did,” Tate said. “You have been a joy to coach these three seasons and wish we had one more to develop you.”