Women’s basketball captain Samantha “Sam” Partonen ’14 has wins on the court and in the classroom, but her real joy is being a part of the UMW Eagles women’s basketball squad.
“Our team is the most positive, hard-working team I know, and that’s the only reason I am able to experience any kind of individual success,” said Partonen, an honor student.
Coach Deena Applebury said the senior guard gives as much as she gets. Partonen earned first- and second-team status on the All-Capital Athletic Conference women’s basketball team, and she joined her Eagles teammates among the Elite 8 in the 2012 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III women’s basketball tournament.
Partonen led the Eagles with 102 assists and averaged 12 points per game last season. She led the season in points per game with an average of 11.3, helping her team end with an 18-8 record.
A native of Burke, Va., and valedictorian of her Robinson High School class, Partonen studies English and plans to pursue a master’s in secondary education at UMW next year. She was one of four Capital Athletic Conference student athletes nominated to the Allstate Good Works Team, which recognizes a select group of college basketball student-athletes who have made significant contributions in their communities through volunteering.
“Through her leadership and mentoring abilities, along with her ability to take over a game and control the tempo for us, Sam helps mold our team together,” Applebury said.
Applebury looks for opportunities for the team to work together off the court, too, in part through community service.
Last fall, Eagles women’s basketball players volunteered at the Rappahannock Riverfest benefit, and they volunteered in areas near campus at UMW’s Good Neighbor Day. They served food and washed dishes at a Richmond NASCAR race as a way to build team spirit and unity.
“Coach Applebury instills in us the importance of giving back,” Partonen said.
As a UMW freshman, Partonen started as point guard. The support from her coach and teammates helped her be confident in the role. “Coach Applebury has a way of believing in you even in the moments when you don’t believe in yourself,” Partonen said.
The team chemistry that existed for Partonen as a freshman is in full swing today and is one of the program’s essential components.
“Whether we are in study hall helping to tutor the younger girls, at Seaco having breakfast as a team, or on the court rotating on defense, we always have each other’s backs,” she said.
Partonen has another team behind her, too – her parents, Laurie and Mark Partonen, whom she calls the two most important people in her life, and her older brother, Jake, who inspired her to take up basketball in kindergarten.
Partonen chose UMW because of its strong basketball program. The team, she said, helped her learn who she is and to be confident.
But at UMW, the athlete found more than a sport.
“I’m fortunate in the fact that I have had an unforgettable time playing basketball here, and that I’ve also gotten a really, really good education,” she said.