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Payne excited for next step




by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor


You play the game to win championships. That’s why an athlete laces up the cleats for the first time. They want a chance to win something with their team. They work hard all offseason just to have a chance to lift the trophy at the end.


As the season comes to an end, the postseason awards start to come in. You don’t play the game to win individual accolades, but if you have a great year,then people will take notice.


If there is one thing to know about Clarence High School soccer is that they win a lot. They are one of the best teams in Western New York every single season. The girls team produces Division I talent it seems like every year.


With all the winning comes awards.


Sammi Jo Payne knows a little something about winning. As a team, Clarence has won a lot over the years, shoot over the past decade. This past offseason, Payne received some individual awards for her tremendous season. Payne, a senior forward, tallied 20 goals to go with three assists.


Those numbers helped her earn first team All-State honors.


“When I heard I was first team All-State I was very grateful and excited,” stated Payne. I told my parents and they were so proud of me. It makes me so fortunate I get to share my happiness with the people I love.”

The individual awards are nice and all, but that isn’t what Payne is all about. Of course she feels humbled for the honors that are bestowed upon her. It’s the experience for her. It’s going to practice with her teammates everyday to get better.


It’s going out there and proving to herself that she can play at the highest level possible, and help her team achieve their goals. That is the type of teammate Payne is. She puts her team in front of her individual success.


“The awards don’t mean as much to me as the actual experience does,” stated Payne. “Obviously I am very humble and proud to earn these awards, but without them I would still be just as grateful and happy for the experience I had and memories I made.”


Payne’s soccer journey has been one of a roller coaster ride at times. It has had its ups and downs, just like most things in life. But, it’s a journey that she has taken, and something that she wouldn’t have any other way.





It’s a journey that has seen her as a mainstay on the Clarence team. It has led her to a very good club career, and has helped her take the next steps to achieving her dream of playing college soccer.


“My soccer journey has been like a roller coaster. Some moments it’s all I do. This journey has had its up and downs, but through it all ,I love it so much and wouldn’t change it,” stated Payne. The work I put in will find a way to pay off and every moment of grit and hardship just brings me closer to my goals.”


Payne moved one step closer to her goal when she recently signed her letter of intent to play college soccer at the University of South Florida.


The Bulls are coming off a 10-6-1 record, and a loss to FAU in the American Athletic Conference tournament. They are a model of consistency when it comes to women’s soccer, and a draw for Payne.


When Payne went on her visit, she immediately felt like she belonged. There was just something about the university. Everyone was so inviting, and made her feel so welcoming.


“The University of South Florida is the school I have recently just signed to. When I first visited the school, I immediately felt like I belonged and that I should go there,” stated Payne. “When I got to see the environment and staff in the soccer program it just made me even more excited. The people there were so welcoming and it helps that their program in seasons past have been outstanding. I am so exited to attend that school next fall and be a part of their soccer program. Go Bulls!”


While she was able to settle on the Bulls as a home for the next four years, the recruiting process was, well, still a process. At times it was stressful, having to get her name out to all the coaches, and making sure she had good games at the prospect camps.


While it all worked out, patience was the key. She needed to be patient when it came to the schools that she was looking at, and have faith that everything was going to work out.


“The recruiting process wasn’t all great, but for me personally it really wasn’t too bad. It was stressful waiting for offers etc. But I kept the mindset that everything will work out in the end,” stated Payne. “Patience was key. It was crazy to think about committing officially to a school and program but I felt confident in my decision.”


If anyone knows about patience it would be Payne. After all, Payne is the one that everyone counts on to score the goals. At times, she needs to be patient as she waits for her opportunity to strike at goal.





There is a lot of pressure when it comes to scoring goals. Payne puts a lot of pressure on herself, but feels like she plays better when she puts lets pressure on herself. It’s almost like she plays loose on the pitch.


“I actually put a lot of pressure on myself, and sometimes too much. I find that when I put less pressure on myself I end up playing better. I think this is because I am loose and have a better mindset. Mindset is a big part of my game,” stated Payne. “When I step on the field I just am determined to do the best I can possibly do. I will do whatever it takes to achieve my goals in that moment.”


Payne isn’t the only DI soccer player in the family. Her older sister, Payton, just finished her sophomore season at Eastern Kentucky. The chance to practice with her sister has been a great experience.


They both want the same thing for each other, and have fun in the process.


“Me and my sister both signed to play division 1 soccer, and we do push each other a lot, but honestly instead of competing we try and make each other the best we can be,” stated Payne. “We want what is best for each other and have so much fun in the process.”

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