Burgess a freshman flash
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 4:41 p.m.
Florida lacrosse coach Amanda O'Leary knew freshman Sammi Burgess had a huge upside, but also was well aware that great potential does not always translate into great success.
“We knew Sammi was a very talented recruit,” O'Leary said. “We had really, really high expectations, but you never know how athletes are going to compete once they get here. You can have the most highly talented recruit, then they get here and, for some reason or another, it just doesn't pan out.”
Burgess has panned into pure gold for No. 3 Florida heading into this weekend's American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Evanston, Ill., where the Gators (15-2, 6-0), fresh off their fourth straight ALC regular-season title, are the No. 1 seed.
She ranks second for UF in goals (31) and points (45), third in assists (14), and is the reigning ALC Rookie of the Week – her second such honor in a row and fourth overall in what already has been a banner first year for the Forest Hill, Md., native.
“It's been really exciting,” Burgess said. “You never know what to expect when you first get here and you're a freshman. I think it just goes to show that anyone can step up and be a leader and make an impact on the team, and it's been a really big honor to be able to step in and help fill the shoes of all those girls that left and created the program.”
Burgess, 2013 First-Team U.S. Lacrosse and Under Armour Senior All-American from prep powerhouse McDonogh School in Owings Mills, helped the Eagles win four straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) titles from 2010-13.
She also is a well-rounded athlete, having participated in a variety of sports, including soccer and tennis.
“I played soccer like my whole life, but I gave it up in high school just to focus on lacrosse,” she said. “I think it's really good to grow up and play a bunch of different sports because you learn a lot of different things about yourself mentally, and it gives you better game-sense in general.”
Burgess has added 21 ground balls and 15 draw controls from her attack position this season, but it is the danger she presents around the goal that really sets her apart.
“What she brings to the table is her quickness to the goal cage,” O'Leary said. “She has great lateral movement; she can stop on a dime. She frustrates the living daylights out of our defenders at practice because she can change direction like that and is so quick.
“With all of those attributes, Sammi is really, really difficult to defend, and she's playing as a freshman. I think that also works to her advantage because she does things that maybe in some people's opinions she shouldn't do, but she does them and they work. She has really come on for us, so I am just elated with her progress and where she is.”
With the postseason at hand, pressure will amp up, but Burgess is not about to change her approach.
“You have to play with confidence,” she said. “If you have confidence, you really can be unstoppable, and I think our coaches are really good with helping to boost our confidence.
“When you're out there and you're not having a good day, you've got to keep your head up and keep going, and I think that's why our team is so good. We may be real young, but we pick each other up if things aren't going well.”