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Woodbury star heads east

By Aaron Paitich, Special to the Star Tribune, 06/22/12, 11:48PM CDT


Royals defender Ben Sampson is headed to Delaware. Engineering and soccer made it the right fit.

When Woodbury’s Ben Sampson caught the eyes of coaches at a soccer showcase in Florida; it led to a commitment to play in college. Photo by Mike Pien

Ben Sampson has all the skills and smarts to accomplish his goals. All he needed was a little luck.

As a member of the Minnesota Thunder Academy, Sampson played in the annual U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase in early January -- this time in Florida -- where all of the organization's teams gather in one city for a tournament. At every game there is a staff member looking for players with National Team potential and further development. Some of those staffers happen to be college coaches as well.

Luckily for Sampson, a Woodbury High School graduate and soccer star, the staff member watching one of his games was also the coach at the University of Delaware.

"It could have been anyone for all I know," Sampson said.

Immediately after the showcase, the coach e-mailed him asking if he'd be interested in Delaware. Sampson was elated. He sent his transcript and other forms to the coaching staff, and one week later, he was invited for an official visit. He verbally committed soon after the visit in early February.

"I feel lucky that he was the one that sat down and watched my game," Sampson added. "It turned out really well for me in the end."

Sampson had been talking to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Oregon State but said he never "got that feeling."

He found it at Delaware, where he'll make his new home for the foreseeable future. It held the perfect combination of soccer and engineering, two things he and his father were looking for in a college.

The final destination just happened to be in a place they weren't expecting.

"We really weren't thinking Delaware," said his dad, Mark Sampson. "That's a long ways away. But it's a really good engineering school, and I think it'll work out."

Ben's path to Delaware is an extraordinary one. Due to his father's work, he spent a total of eight years growing up in Singapore and Poland, where he continued to play soccer. He spent time with the Woodbury youth program in between relocations before finally entering the high school and starting on the varsity as a freshman.

Standing 6-3 and still growing, Sampson meant everything to the Royals. This year coach Joe Quintavelle had the youngest team he's ever had in his tenure at Woodbury. His second-year captain had no problem making the ninth- and 10th-graders feel welcomed to the team.

Quintavelle went on and on about Sampson's attributes -- gifted, skilled, great attitude, determination, work ethic, intelligence and leadership, among many others.

Sampson was arguably one of the best, if not the best, defenders in the state this past season, Quintavelle said. The longtime coach added that he has never seen his former star get beaten by the dribble.

"If I had the opportunity to put together a player with skills on and off the field, too, he'd be the prototype player any coach would want to have," he said.

Quintavelle said he believes the future is bright for Sampson. While the days ahead look promising and exciting, Sampson is enjoying the moment.

"All the work that you put in at the youth level, and all of the work that you put in at school to get good grades and do well on your ACTs, it all cumulates to the college level and achieving your dreams," he said. "It's one of the best feelings."

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