Mississippi State

From Las Vegas To #StarkVegas: Blanchard's Unique Journey To MSU

October 12, 2017

From her hometown of Las Vegas, commonly known as “the entertainment capital of the world,” to the small town of Starkville, often referred to as “StarkVegas,” Sam Blanchard has had a journey unlike anything she had ever dreamed of.

The following feature story can be found in the Oct. 14 Mississippi State Football Game Program, which can be purchased for $5 in and around Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday.

From her hometown of Las Vegas, commonly known as “the entertainment capital of the world,” to the small town of Starkville, often referred to as “StarkVegas,” Sam Blanchard has had a journey unlike anything she had ever dreamed of.
 
Blanchard grew up loving soccer and knew she wanted to play the sport while furthering her education, but had no idea she would end up over 1,700 miles from home, let alone end up in Starkville.
 
The freshman defender never dreamed of attending Mississippi State to play soccer, but after an official visit, the culture of the team, campus and coaching staff made it nearly irresistible—ultimately leading her to choose MSU.
 
The culture of the two cities are almost complete opposites, which the Las Vegas native says has been one of the biggest adjustments for her.
 
“It was a really big transition from Las Vegas to Starkville,” Blanchard said. “In Vegas, everything is open 24 hours. It’s a city that never sleeps. Starkville is a little town, but I really like the small town.”
 
Blanchard has experienced first-hand the difference in intensity and competitiveness of soccer in the different areas.
 
“A lot of people play soccer in Vegas, but the level of play compared to anywhere else is not near as high,” Blanchard said. “It is almost a different kind of game. In Las Vegas, many don’t really take soccer very seriously. That was a huge adjustment for me coming to State because it is almost a completely different game than I have been used to playing.”
 
It wasn’t until May when she officially signed with the Bulldogs, giving the defender much less time to prepare than others for the transition she was about to make.
 
“To play soccer in college, you have to be mentally tough,” Blanchard said. “You have to be able to adapt, stay strong mentally and be able to focus no matter what is going on in your life. Even if it is hard, you have to be able to push through everything. You are going to be pushed to your limits and you have to be able to keep going and show a good work ethic.”
 
After a summer of hard work and a great start to her first season, she has made an impact on the team, making her a mainstay in the Bulldogs’ Starting XI—a surreal feeling not even Blanchard could imagine possible.
 
 “It felt amazing to start,” Blanchard said. “I was extremely nervous even when I went into my first game and only played for like three minutes in the first half. The thought of going in your first college game and the excitement that you get is so unreal. Starting my first game was probably one of the greatest feelings I have ever felt. You feel so accomplished because everything you have worked for your entire life led up to that.”
 
Her growth as a player has not gone unnoticed by head coach Tom Anagnost and the rest of the Bulldog coaching staff, and Anagnost feels that she has been a valuable member on the pitch for the Bulldogs.
 
“Sam is an overall very good player which was an incredible find so late in her senior year,” Anagnost said. “She is a good athlete, technical and can keep us in possession. She has helped us a lot and is growing each week. The physical, psychological and mental components of her game are still growing and as they do her ability and value on this team could be extraordinary.”
 
Although playing soccer over a thousand miles from home was a complete shock and was something Blanchard never thought imaginable, she feels that the people she surrounds herself with make her feel at home.
 
While Blanchard’s journey from Las Vegas to “StarkVegas” was long, it has only just begun.
 

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