While the Aggies may have finished off the 2020 fall season on a disappointing note, defender Karlina Sample can look back on the past five months with pride on her work on and off the pitch.
Sample, a junior defender at Texas A&M, recently earned SEC Co-Defender of the Season accolades alongside her teammate Jimena Lopez, as the duo lead one of the best defenses in the nation. Just as impressively in August, Sample helped found The B.L.U.E.print, a student organization for which she is president.
B.L.U.E.print stands for “Black Leaders who Undertake Excellence” and Sample said while she had been planning this organization since the beginning of the year, ongoing racial injustices in the United States made the need for the organization much more apparent.
“I felt it was necessary to provide a safe space for Black student-athletes to express themselves and be comfortable in their own skin,” Sample said. “It’s been going well and we’ve been getting a lot of great feedback.”
Jordan Burbank, a junior goalkeeper and one of Sample’s best friends on the team said she’s proud of her teammate’s work off of the field.
“I think what she’s done outside of the soccer team has been incredibly important for the university,” Burbank said. “I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg for what she has the potential to do.”
On the field, soccer coach G Guerrieri said Sample and her defensive partner, sophomore Katie Smith, are crucial to the Aggies’ expansive, possession-based playstyle. Guerrieri said the two center backs have made the biggest differences in how the Aggies have been able to play this season.
“It allows us to spread out our opponents and pick them apart,” Guerrieri said. “We’ve been able to do that game after game and a huge part of that is thanks to Karlina and Katie.”
Sample’s path to her SEC Co-Defender of Season honor was not without its obstacles as she suffered and recovered from two ACL injuries in her time at A&M. Guerrieri said Sample, in order to recover from the most recent injury, made the decision to stay in College Station when COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill.
“Karlina has always kept her focus, and we knew she was going to do whatever she could to get back,” Guerrieri said. “Before she got injured last year, we were conceding very few goals, and when she went out injured we started conceding a lot. So her impact on our success is unquestionable.”
Sample said she was surprised when she learned of her SEC Co-Defender of the Season honors and added that overcoming her ACL injuries and surgeries made the award even sweeter.
“I put in a lot of work, time and focus to get here, and time away from home,” Sample said. “Getting the award has shown me that hard work pays off, and I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing.”
Both Guerrieri and Burbank spoke to Sample’s unmistakable leadership qualities, and Burbank said Sample’s captaincy is proof of those qualities.
“You have to be voted in by teammates to be a captain,” Burbank said. “I think that speaks volumes about her character and how we as a team view her. We all look up to her.”
Guerrieri echoed Burbank’s sentiment and was effusive with his praise toward Sample.
“She’s a natural leader and people naturally listen to and gravitate toward her,” Guerrieri said. “The more I’ve gotten to know her over the years, the more impressed I continue to be. She really is a special person.”