Soccer became a part of Sam Jeffries’ DNA by necessity — with basketball as the unexpected conduit.
“It’s kind of funny,” she said. “I played basketball when I was younger. I was playing with a bunch of my friends, and one of their dads was coaching soccer. (Later) they needed a goalkeeper, so they approached me.”
The logic was staring them square in the face. She had basketball skills, so there must be soccer skills there, too, right?
And that was how an eventual multiple all-state goalkeeper got her start. And it factors heavily into her latest accolade, as the Journal has selected the Sandia Prep senior as its 2019-20 metro female Athlete of the Year.
“It means a lot, especially coming from a smaller school,” she said. “It’s honestly unexpected. But it means the world.”
Jeffries, 17, led Class 3A goalkeepers in goals-against average (0.415) as the Sundevils last November won a state championship.
“She is dedicated to her craft,” said Sandia Prep girls soccer coach Matt Westerlund. “Sometimes goalkeepers get neglected when it comes to soccer, and she took it upon herself to polish up on her craft. She really is someone that became the goalie she was, not just because of her talent, but because she worked for years to get where she is.”
The 5-foot-9 forward also averaged a double-double for Sandia Prep – 12.3 points and a 3A-leading 10.8 rebounds per game – during basketball season.
“She has a great fighting spirit,” Sundevil girls basketball coach Jerome Romero said. “When I picture her, I see that fight in her all the time. … That’s a reflection of her personality. In general, she’s strong-willed. She’s going to accomplish, no matter what’s in the way.”
Soccer might appear on the surface to be Jeffries’ ticket to college, but that would be only a half-truth. She did, in fact, earn a scholarship to Eastern New Mexico in Portales.
But there was another carrot: ENMU’s film program. Jeffries wants to enter the movie industry, on the technical side, after she graduates. She has a real love for cinematography, among other things.
“I’ve always known I wanted to play soccer in college,” Jeffries said. “I was looking for a school that offered both.”
Often, she said, she and her friends follow local signs in the metro area to locate film sets. And she is as committed to entering the world of movies as she was to excelling in athletics.
“Sam is one of the most dedicated people I know,” said Austin Tackman, Jeffries’ best friend and a teammate in both sports. “She’s one of those people, if she picks up a hobby, she won’t let it drop until she figures out (how to do it at) the top level. … I know it’s early on, but I think she has a lot of potential going into that. She’s a movie nerd. She’s pretty serious about it.”
Jeffries always tackles projects with fervor, her parents say.
“She’s an amazing kid in every aspect of her life,” mother Lynn Jeffries said. “There is no challenge she won’t accept and put her whole heart into it.”
Her father, Scott, is dean of students and a math teacher at Sandia Prep. The family lives on the West Side, near Cibola.
“She’s one of those kids that everybody that knows her, loves her,” Scott Jeffries said. “She’s a quality person. She’s a genuine person. She won’t do anything to try to impress anybody. Whatever she’s doing, it’s just her being her.”
Jeffries has shone as an all-state keeper since she was a freshman. It’s the position she was born to play, with her length and athleticism. Notably, Sandia Prep did not lose a single state tournament game during the last four years with Jeffries in net. She also played some varsity as an eighth-grader.
“I remember the adrenaline the goalkeeping position offers,” Jeffries said. “I tried playing on the field. It wasn’t the same. I just never really picked up the foot skills I needed to play the field when I was younger.”
Goalkeeping scratched the right itch.
“It’s kind of hard to explain. You know you’re the last line of defense, and it’s scary, but you have to have this confidence in yourself and be ready for anything,” she said.
Jeffries spent several years when younger in the state’s Olympic Development Program.
“It will be hard to replicate (what she did for us) at our school for years to come,” Westerlund said. “Honestly, I’ve had the opportunity to coach her for years, and we go into every game with a goal in our favor because we have her in goal.”
Westerlund believes Jeffries will make an immediate impact at ENMU, even with the Greyhounds’ recent coaching change.
“It’s definitely a little nerve-racking, the idea of going to college, but I’m super-excited,” Jeffries said.