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06/29/2022 12:00 AM

Wakelee Stood Tall as Old Saybrook’s Goalie

Senior captain Sam Wakelee capped off her career as Old Saybrook’s goalie by earning All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors for the league champion Rams this spring. Photo courtesy of Sam Wakelee

There is a lot of pressure on a goalkeeper to make crucial saves for their team in the sport of lacrosse. Sam Wakelee was constantly facing that pressure as the starting goalie for the Old Saybrook girls’ lacrosse team and always stood up to the challenge.

Sam recently completed her career as the Rams’ goalkeeper by leading the team as a senior captain during the 2022 season. Sam made her fair share of big saves to help Old Saybrook put together an incredible year that featured a Shoreline Conference title and a journey to the semifinals of the Class S State Tournament, earning All-Conference accolades along the way.

Sam started playing lacrosse as a youngster. She participated in other sports, but lacrosse was the one that stuck with Sam leading up to her days at the high school. Sam began her career as a midfielder and then made the move to goalie just in time to suit up at that position with the Rams. Sam’s love for being on a team and her desire to hold a large role on her team inspired her to continue playing lacrosse.

“The camaraderie of being on a team, that was always something that attracted me to team sports in general, but I felt that really strongly in lacrosse,” says Sam. “You have to work as a team to reach a common goal, and I always found that fascinating.”

Sam was introduced to an Old Saybrook program that had been adhering to an acronym year after year. The acronym is P.A.C., which stands for poise, alertness, and confidence. Sam struggled with staying poised and confident when she first stepped in the net, but mastered the art of doing so during her senior season.

“I think confidence and poise were two growth areas for me coming in as a freshman. I think I really honed on in my senior year in terms of communication,” Sam says. “I was really nervous my freshman year to be vocal and communicate with my teammates, but that’s a really important part of the game, especially for a young defense. Having the confidence and poise to do that in a manner that’s effective is something that I’m really proud of my growth in.”

Sam’s focus in goal and ability to be a reliable netminder proved vital for Old Saybrook’s success this year. Head Coach Dick Shriver took note of how Sam’s strength was always apparent when the Rams were faced with any difficult situations. Shriver says that Sam thrived under the pressure in goal.

“Others are inspired by Sam’s hard work, dedication, and seriousness. She takes her role seriously,” says Shriver. “At tough times, when we needed a little boost, she was always there for a crucial save. The tougher the situation in a tough game, the better she got.”

One of the toughest times for Sam and the Rams came when they took their only loss of the regular season with a 13-11 defeat against Valley Regional. Sam says that Old Saybrook’s response to that loss marked a huge turning point in the Rams’ campaign.

“The games following our first loss were a pivotal moment in our season,” Sam says. “One of the biggest growth areas for our team this year was knowing how to react when we were down. We could push forward and learn how to shift our mindset when we are in those positions, and I think we really did that.”

Old Saybrook responded to the Valley game by rattling off 12-consecutive victories to make it to the Class S state semifinals. On May 26, the Rams claimed their first Shoreline Conference title since 2015 by earning a 14-12 win versus North Branford in the league final, bolstered by a 22-save performance from Sam.

Old Saybrook went on to notch victories over Haddam-Killingworth and North Branford in states before taking a 9-8 loss to Lauralton Hall in the semifinal round. The Rams finished their season with an overall record of 19-2, and Sam was rewarded for her stellar performance in goal by earning a spot on the All-Shoreline Conference First Team, marking the second year in a row that she garnered All-Conference honors.

“I’m incredibly proud of our performance throughout the entire season, especially the postseason. It’s a long season the further into the postseason you get. I don’t think anyone on the team let up in any way,” says Sam. “We kept our drive to push forward. We kept our team connection and kept alertness on the field, and that’s something to be really proud of.”

Sam took away many valuable lessons from her final season at Old Saybrook. One of the most important things for Sam was the friendships that she made with a group teammates who became her family. Sam grew closer with those teammates as she learned to lean on her supporting cast this season.

“One of the biggest things I learned from this season was that you can’t do it alone. You need to want to rely on the people around you,” Sam says. “Lacrosse is a team sport, and I think that translates to so many different parts of your life, whether that be your career or family life. Leaning on the people around you is something I really learned how to do this year.”

Sam’s experience at Old Saybrook motivated her to play lacrosse at the next level. Sam is going to attend Marion Military Institute in Alabama for one year and will then join the United States Coast Guard Academy, where she will continue her lacrosse career.

Until the next time that she sets foot on the lacrosse field, Sam is going to continue cherishing all the positive memories from her experience as Old Saybrook’s goalie. Above all else, Sam learned about the importance of teamwork, and she couldn’t have asked for a better group of teammates to share the field with as a member of the Rams.

“It makes my day every day seeing my teammates,” says Sam. “I think that Old Saybrook is really just a family on and off the field.”