No pressure

Lee rises to challenge of filling big roles  

Woodland pitcher Samantha Lee stepped into the circle as a freshmen to fill the shoes of All-State pitcher Katie Alfiere. Four years later, Lee has never let the pressure get to her whether on the field or the court. –FILE PHOTO

Woodland pitcher Samantha Lee stepped into the circle as a freshmen to fill the shoes of All-State pitcher Katie Alfiere. Four years later, Lee has never let the pressure get to her whether on the field or the court. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — Samantha Lee wouldn’t take the bait. She refused to pick between softball and volleyball as her favorite sport.

“That’s a hard question!” Lee said with a laugh after leading Woodland to a 2-1 win over St. Paul on senior night Tuesday.

Lee hasn’t been forced to pick between the two in a terrific high school career, and she won’t have to make a decision when she heads to Becker College in Worcester, Mass., this fall. Lee is slated to play both softball and volleyball for another group of Hawks.

Becker will inherit a player who has been in leadership positions full of pressure for seven of her eight seasons at Woodland. It all started when she stepped into the pitcher’s circle as a freshman, filling the spot left by All-State pitcher Katie Alfiere for the defending Naugatuck Valley League champion.

“It was nerve-wracking, but having a senior catcher in Becca Norton helped me out a lot,” Lee said. “My defense had my back, and I didn’t have to worry about batting that year.”

Lee helped Woodland to a 10-0 start that season and hasn’t slowed down her winning pace ever since. In fact, she’s only carried it over to the hardwood for an even more successful stint with the volleyball squad.

There, she filled the spot left by All-State setter Jessica Patrizi. It didn’t take long for Lee to play up to the level of her predecessor, even though she initially picked up the sport only for a change of pace from her main sport.

“Volleyball I just started at the beginning of high school as a break from softball, but it became serious,” Lee said.

With nine years of softball experience under her belt before she picked up a volleyball, Lee credited her pitching career with helping her adapt more quickly to a new game.

“Being a pitcher, I was used to pressure so it helped me stay calm,” Lee said. “And I think softball gave me good hands, so that helped in learning how to be a good setter.”

Even with a successful softball career that isn’t quite over, Lee’s most indelible mark may have been left in a spot she couldn’t have imagined. She, along with classmate Brianna Pacileo, led the Hawks to an appearance in the 2012 Class M volleyball final and a victory in the 2013 championship — Woodland’s first state title in any sport since 2005.

The road to similar success in this softball postseason might be tougher, but Lee will try to do it with most of the same girls that earned a pair of championships in the fall. In Tuesday night’s win over St. Paul, which helped Woodland improve to 16-3, seven of the nine starters were also on the volleyball roster.

“We were in that position against hard competition, and more than half of the softball team was our volleyball team,” Lee said. “We just have that confidence that we can do anything in any sport.”

And through it all, Lee lets all the pressure rest on her shoulders.

“I’m used to it because I’ve been pitching for so long,” she said. “I like being in control more than letting someone else do it.”

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