Jackie Rupp has missed plenty of social activities throughout her high school career because of her dedication to lacrosse, but she does not regret the Homecomings and parties she has missed over the years.
"A lot of people didn't understand why I'd miss doing what normal people did just to drive to Maryland twice a week for lacrosse, but it's probably the best decision I've ever made," Rupp said. "It all paid off in the end."
Rupp, an 18-year-old senior from Oak Hill, signed to play lacrosse for the University of Florida next year, a decision she made public in a last fall.
Rupp, a midfielder and co-captain, has played lacrosse since fourth grade. The sport runs in her family, as her grandfather, dad, uncles, several cousins and her older sister all played lacrosse. She had the opportunity to play varsity with her sister, Sarah Beth, her freshman year when Sarah Beth was a senior. This year, her dad, who coached her youth league team when she first start playing, has joined the Cougars' coaching staff.
Wanting to play with the best, Rupp tried out for the Maryland and District of Columbia Lacrosse Club team when she was in seventh grade. The team boasts elite players, all of whom desire to play at the highest level.
"I think that's when I realized how serious I was becoming about lacrosse," Rupp said. "I realized I was willing to travel to Maryland to play on the most competitive team I could. Playing on that team also made me realize there was a future in lacrosse for me."
Rupp put in the many hours necessary to become worthy of a Division I lacrosse program, and is well aware she will have to work even harder once she gets to the University of Florida.
Amanda O'Leary, head coach at the University of Florida, said she saw Rupp play several times during the recruiting process and was impressed with her ability to play both ends of the field and willingness "to do the dirty work" when competing for ground balls.
"I do believe Jackie has the ability to make an immediate impact on our team," O'Leary wrote in an email to Oakton Patch. "I told her during the recruiting process that we did not recruit her to sit the bench, we expect her to compete for a starting position and I know she can do it."
Jean Counts, head coach at Oakton High, has confidence Rupp will work her way onto the starting lineup.
"Jackie is very powerful. She is an absolute workhorse. I don't think it'll be difficult for her to get into the college work regimen," Counts said. "She's somebody who is just physically and athletically an absolute machine."
Rupp's father called Jackie "one of the hardest working kids" he has ever seen, so his faith in her ability to make an impact at the Division I level is high. He noted her lead-by-example approach to her leadership role on the team as a great strength he hopes she carries with her for the rest of her life.
"There's goals and assists, but it's the little things that I think help out the team as a whole. Her work between the 30s, the way she digs for ground balls or fights for draws, the other kids see that and then want to do that, too," Bob Rupp said. "That's the thing that, as a dad, I'm the most proud of her for on the field."
Jackie Rupp credits the Cougars, who will be competing for the state title at 6 p.m. today, for teaching her the emotional aspect of the game matters, too.
"The heart and drive, I learned about that at Oakton," Rupp said. "Coach Counts taught me a lot about patience and being confident in myself. And this team, I've become so close to them all. It's like having a second family."
Counts credits all her captains — Rupp, Carly Palmucci, and Claire Stikeleather — for this year's team unity, saying they all know each member of the team is important to its overall dynamic so everyone is treated as equals.
"There's no difference in Jackie as a player and Jackie as a kid on the team," Counts said. "She shows that her ability doesn't separate her in a way that her teammates should have to cross oceans to get to her."
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