Ripley.jpg

Union Pines' Melody Ripley signs her letter of intent to play lacrosse for Lees-

McRae College on Wednesday. She is the first Viking lacrosse player to sign to play at the next level.

A major accomplishment for the fledgling Union Pines girls lacrosse program happened when senior Melody Ripely signed to play for Lees-McRae College to become the program’s first collegiate signee on Wednesday.

“We’ve all really collectively worked really hard to get this team off the ground,” Ripley said. “For us to be doing something like signing for a college as members of a new team, it’s huge and it’s significant because that’s not something you usually see from a second-year lacrosse team.”

Ripley began playing lacrosse in the first grade, and has been coached by her father, Tim Ripley, the last two seasons with the Vikings.

Union Pines went 1-3 last year before COVID-19 canceled the season. The team has won three games this season already.

Tim credits the work of the senior class with the progress of the program to where it is now.

“We have 15 seniors this year and a lot of them were some of the first six or eight girls we practiced down the street at the church field trying to start this program,” he said. “For them to graduate is really sad.”

Lees-McRae, located in Banner Elk, recently installed a turf athletic field for lacrosse and soccer to share.

The priority of lacrosse and the intimate setting of the school were big parts in Melody choosing to play there.

“I love the environment of the college and I like how welcoming the coach is,” she said. “She’s super welcoming and super inviting and it seems like it’s a great atmosphere, a great place and a great school for academics and athletics. Lacrosse seems like a really big priority there, rather than a secondary sport.”

Tim said the Bobcats are getting a player well versed in the game.

“She’s a very intelligent player. She knows the game really well and has a very high IQ,” Tim said. “She’s just a very smart and articulate teammate. She’s comfortable everywhere on the field.”

Melody credits her nearly lifelong journey playing the game, and her dedication to improve all parts of her game to become a more complete player. Tim said that she is comfortable playing as a defender, midfielder or an attacker.

Lees-McRae will decide where she will fit in best, Tim said.

“She just wants to keep playing,” he said.

Signing was fulfilling a dream for Melody on Wednesday, and it also brought a sense of relief.

“Being able to feel the achievement of getting something that I’ve toward for so long is a huge weight off my shoulders,” Melody said.

Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or jonathan@thepilot.com.

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