Ruffin selected top female athletePublished 6:57pm Saturday, July 28, 2012
CHOCOWINITY — Down by two points with under 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional basketball finals, Southside’s Valerie Ruffin hit the hardwood not once, but twice, to force two tie-ups that allowed the Seahawks to regain possession of the basketball in the closing moments of the contest.
It was a play that would have been impossible to imagine last year as the Southside guard was hounded by crutches instead of hounding opposing ball-handlers after she tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament and meniscus in her right knee during a preseason hoops tournament.
If Ruffin had thought about reinjuring her knee, nobody else in the Crown Coliseum that night could tell as her effort would lead to an overtime-forcing layup by teammate Chante Painter an eventual victory over Lakewood to thrust Southside into the 1-A state finals for the first time in school history.
That moment is a symbolic one for Ruffin, who persevered through that knee injury and the exhausting rehabilitation process that followed to excel in volleyball, basketball and softball in 2011-12 en route to being tabbed the Washington Daily News Female Athlete of the Year.
“It was a fun year,” Ruffin said. “Going into volleyball was a little challenging because I was afraid of the injury still but I was able to overcome that.”
That she did, as Ruffin flourished as the middle hitter for the Seahawks where her athletic ability allowed her to be a force at the net and earned her a spot on the WDN All-Area Volleyball team.
“She was a major influence on the front line and a great team player,” Southside volleyball coach Elizabeth Pruden said. “Her strength overall was her blocking and her timing was impeccable.”
While her fast hands and quick feet made her an asset for the Seahawks, Ruffin’s role as a leader on the team was every bit as valuable.
“She was one of our only seniors and she was a huge role model for the younger girls,” Pruden said. “A lot of the girls looked up to her. “
Ruffin had the same impact on the Seahawks basketball team as she accepted her role as defensive stopper and never tried to force shots on offense, choosing to score when the shots came to her.
The result was a 29-4 record and second-place finish in the state.
“She added a lot to our lineup. I was very excited to get her back,” Southside basketball coach Bill Lake said of the WDN All-Area second-team guard. “She has very long arms and can really cause havoc out front on the opposing guards … In the regional finals in Fayetteville she was personally responsible for tying up the girl twice so we could get the ball back and have the last shot.”
As for the knee, Ruffin paid it no mind.
“I was just ready to play to be quite honest,” Ruffin said. “I just pushed past it.”
As with the volleyball team, Lake said Ruffin’s character was every bit as important as her production on the court.
“Something that isn’t seen a whole lot by the fans is the leadership. Just by her actions on the floor she really sets a high standard for the athletes and I’m going to miss that next year,” Lake said. “It means everything and sets the tone for the whole team. It gives the team the attitude of ‘Are we going to go out and be successful or just be a bunch of thugs.’ You have to have somebody to set that bar.
“High school sports are about teaching them how to act and to be gracious in winning and losing.”
Southside softball coach John Lohman concurred and said Ruffin was as good at resolving team conflicts as she was clubbing doubles.
“There are times on the bus where they might be a little friction on the team and she would handle that stuff,” Lohman said. “I would come back there to see what was going on and she would already have it settled.”
On the diamond, the future accounting and finance major at UNC-Greensboro was all business as she returned to the form that made her standout in her sophomore season and batted .372 as a senior for the Seahawks and was named a WDN All-Area first-team outfielder.
“I was very happy to have her back,” Lohman said. “She is a solid bat in the lineup and good outfielder.”
2012 — Valerie Ruffin, Southside
2011 – Beth Batchelor, Washington
2010 — Beth Batchelor, Washington
2009 — Elizabeth Ange, Jamesville
2008 — Samantha Smith, Washington
2007 — Suzanne Lee, Northside
2006 — Meredith Knox, Washington
2005 — Meredith Knox, Washington
2004 — Melody Jo (MJ) Williams, Mattamuskeet