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New London — When Samantha Ryan used to go to Michael's Dairy for ice cream, she never noticed nearby Mitchell College.
Now Ryan, a Waterford High School graduate, couldn't see herself anywhere else but Mitchell.
"I never thought I'd be here, honestly," Ryan said. "Living in Quaker Hill all my life I never knew that Mitchell was here. I used to come to Michael's Dairy all the time with my family.
"Then, one day, I was like, this is my school now. I love it."
This spring the freshman is playing her fourth different sport, adding softball to a list that also includes tennis, volleyball and basketball.
On Monday, Ryan caught both ends of a doubleheader against Daniel Webster College, helping Mitchell roll to 10-2 and 9-1 victories, both in five innings. The Mariners improved to 14-17 overall, 10-6 in the New England Collegiate Conference.
"She is a jack of all trades," softball coach Jillian Ortega said. "It's fantastic. She's does a great job for us, probably one of the most athletic young women that I've had the privilege of coaching and probably meeting.
"The nice part of about Sam is, as soon as she steps between the white lines, it's 100 percent full speed."
Ryan played mostly just one sport - basketball - during her Waterford High days. Still trying to figure out what she wanted to do after graduation, Ryan took some general studies classes at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich.
A friend introduced her to Ortega, who convinced her to enroll in Mitchell and play softball.
"I found what I wanted to do here, playing a couple of sports," Ryan said. "I absolutely love it. ... It was a dream come true to come here because I honestly never thought I'd be playing college sports. It's probably the best decision that I've ever made."
Ryan didn't set out to play multiple sports in college. It kind of just happened.
Ortega, who also is the tennis coach, convinced Ryan to play last fall, telling her it was a good way to work on her conditioning for softball season.
It didn't matter that Ryan had never picked up a tennis racquet before. At first, Ryan had trouble keeping the ball on the court. She ended up playing No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles.
"She was the kind of kid that I was expecting would come out and give everything she had," Ortega said. "And I was 100 percent right about that, and she did that. Sam is always willing to learn."
Then, when the tennis season ended early, Ryan was recruited to play for the volleyball team that was shorthanded due to injuries.
"Volleyball definitely is not my sport, but it was fun," said Ryan, who is studying sports management and physical education, hoping to be an elementary school teacher. "I love sports, so whatever it is, I'd give it a try."
An injury hampered Ryan during basketball season, but she still appeared in 16 games, starting seven, and averaged 4.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Ryan has been a fixture in the starting lineup on the softball team, appearing in all 31 games. She went 2-for-5 with an RBI in Monday's doubleheader. She is batting .272 overall with a team-high tying two home runs and 11 RBI.
Emily Morenzoni, a sophomore infielder from Waterford, had three hits, scored three runs and drove in four Monday while sophomore Shannon O'Neil added three hits and three RBI and pitchers Brittany Fiederlein and Tricia Tomaselli each earned a win.
The Mariners close out the regular season against NECC foe Wheelock Saturday, hoping to improve their seeding position for the upcoming NECC tournament.
Ortega loves her team's tenacity and leadership.
"I think a lot of girls are doing a great job of running this team," Ortega said. "They keep the train on the tracks, and I think that's fantastic."