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How humbleness pushed Sammi Hampton to overcome two lost seasons

Hampton lost two seasons while at ASU — one to an ACL injury and another to COVID-19. She now embraces her opportunity to play a fifth season

Sammi Hampton.jpeg

ASU redshirt senior Sammi Hampton prepares to serve against Kansas State at the Whiteman Tennis Center in Tempe on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. ASU won against Kansas State 4-1

ASU women's tennis redshirt senior Sammi Hampton has always possessed confidence in herself to win. She came into her freshman year at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Washington, believing she would make the state championships, a notion people around her thought was "crazy."

For Hampton and to others around her, it is humble confidence. It is what not only contributed to her success at multiple levels as a player but what brought her through an ACL injury she suffered in her junior year at ASU. 

The time she spent off the court due to the injury shifted her perspective of what she could contribute to the team, aiming to encourage teammates from the sidelines. 

"I felt like being on the sidelines, that's a huge role you need to play; you need to lift people up, push them and be right next to them so you're not out there fighting alone," Hampton said. 

Hampton returned to action a month into the 2018-19 season, believing she was ready to compete. However, she said her uncle, who has watched her play through her whole career, felt as if she wasn't trusting her movements the same way before suffering the injury. 

But in March 2020, just when Hampton felt like she had fully recovered physically and mentally, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

"I will never forget that we were on the train back to get our flight because they had just canceled our match, and we weren't really sure what was going to happen," Hampton said. "We heard it from Twitter, and it was very, very sad and heartbreaking."

The remainder of the 2019-20 season had been canceled, and Hampton did not know if she was going to return to play when the NCAA announced all spring sport athletes gained an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic's effects on their seasons. 

"I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to come back yet because I felt like I had already been there (ASU) for a while due to my ACL (injury)," Hampton said.

Hampton graduated in 2019 with a degree in English but decided to take business classes to continue playing past 2020.

All she knew was that she "loved tennis" and took the opportunity to obtain her master's degree in her last year of eligibility.

"I took the opportunity to play the sport I love with the girls who are like my family," Hampton said. "So far, I think it was a great decision, and I have enjoyed every second of it."

It was love for the sport that pushed her to not only be ambitious with her goals starting in high school, but spurred the sense of camaraderie to aid her teammates, whether during play or on the sideline with an injury. 

"Players nowhere near her (Hampton's) ability and performance were sometimes arrogant, cocky, and at times selfish, not wanting to be a team player," said Skyview High School tennis head coach Jay Gowen, who coached Hampton. "However, Sammi was the ultimate team player and connector." 

Gowen believes Hampton's humility in playing tennis pushed her through her injury. He said she "appreciates the opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than herself."

Hampton credits her aunt and uncle, who took her into their family when she was 4 years old, for supporting her throughout high school and into college and giving her a thankful perspective on life.

"Being in the situation I was in has made me appreciate things a lot differently, so I think that's also what's made me view almost every situation where the glass is half-full, rather than half-empty, and I think that translates to sports," Hampton said.

Hampton has played alongside freshman Marianna Argyrokastriti this season as her doubles partner, and Argyrokastriti believes Hampton has brought positive energy to their partnership.

"She is such a great player and such a positive influence not only on me but on the whole team," Argyrokastriti said. "I'm going to miss her a lot next year. She has taught me a lot only as a freshman."

An upperclassman being paired with a freshman is a dynamic Hampton is familiar with. Hampton said she never played doubles prior to coming to ASU. 

In her freshman year, Hampton was paired with then-junior Kassidy Jump, who mentored her through her freshman season, teaching Hampton about doubles and serving as a role model. 

"Ever since then (freshman year), I have really enjoyed doubles," Hampton said. "My high school coach said I tend to lift others up. I think that's my biggest role in doubles now, and that stems from Kassidy Jump."

Hampton believes the team could make the NCAA Championships if it sustains positive energy throughout the season. "We have the talent," she said. It is an energy Hampton continues to look to provide through her play and on the sidelines.

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