By Owen Gotimer
Viva Loudoun College Editor
(March 4, 2014) – Briar Woods High School senior Tori Riopelle has committed to continue her soccer career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.
“I never let my sports interfere with my grades because I knew I would need them. I knew soccer alone would not open doors for me, or not the right doors,” said the 5-foot-6 Riopelle. “I wanted a quality education at a school focused on science and technology. It is small but has a strong athletic program. I was thrilled when their soccer coach contacted me. I will have the best of both worlds at RPI.”
Business Insider ranked Rensselaer the fourth best engineering school in the world in 2012. Riopelle said getting recruited to play for the Division III Engineers was a different experience than getting recruited to play at other schools.
“The coach could not just offer me a spot on the team. I had to meet Rensselaer’s high academic standards,” Riopelle said. “I received my letter at the end of the summer, just when other students were just starting their [applications]. It was such a relief to know I was in at the school I wanted.”
Raised in Ashburn, Riopelle reminisced on all of the hard work it took her to get a roster spot on the RPI team including travelling hundreds of miles for tournaments and training.
“Seeking out specialized training, playing club soccer, going to multiple tournaments a year, reaching out to coaches has been a long process,” said Riopelle who plays club for Loudoun Soccer. “I began talking to RPI after a tournament in Florida my sophomore year. I took trips to the school, spent time with the team and knew it was a good fit for me.”
Last fall, Rensselaer finished 8-8-1 including a 3-5 record in the Liberty League. Riopelle who will play goalie for the Engineers will have a shot to get action during her freshmen season as RPI’s senior goalkeeper Steph Vargas – who split time in the net with freshmen Alex Scholz – will graduate this spring.
“The women Engineers are a strong team but will lose their top keeper this summer,” Riopelle said. “The idea of graduating early was discussed but I didn’t want to give up my senior year of high school, especially after going all the way to the state finals last year. I will be stepping in as their goalkeeper my freshman year which will be a challenging transition, but I am looking forward to it.”
While RPI ended their season prematurely with just a .500 record, the Briar Woods Falcons emerged as one of the best teams in the state in 2013, finishing 19-5-1 losing their final game of the season to the Woodgrove Wolverines in the VHSL AA state final.
The Falcons, like all teams in the state, have undergone a conference realignment and thus will have a different road to the state tournament this year, but Riopelle said she is not worried.
“Our Briar Woods team expects to be just as good as last year,” Riopelle said. “We did graduate two starting players but we have a strong, talented team and now a great group of freshmen to help us reach our goals. We want to work hard, go as far as we can and this time end with a win.”
Playing soccer since she was just four years old, Riopelle declared soccer has become a part of who she is.
“I love the game, the competition, the teamwork and my teammates. From my training in Rhode Island to a national championship in Florida, I know soccer has taught me so much and made me a stronger and more confident person,” Riopelle said. “Being the goalkeeper can be a hard position to play. It carries a lot of responsibility but I give each game my all. I trained hard to earn a spot on a top ranked Loudoun Soccer team, helped to carry the Briar Woods team to the state finals last year and I am ready for the challenges ahead.”
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg and is currently a sophomore at Syracuse University. Follow Owen on Twitter (@BigO_Gotimer) for up-to-date college signings and news. Contact us if you want Owen to do an article on the college commitment of your favorite local athlete or a story on a Loudoun County graduate playing in college!