By PATRICK MacCOON
Making the most of our unique talents given to us by a greater power is very important for growth and success in life.For Cleveland High School, the Stutzman triplets have made the most of their …
Making the most of our unique talents given to us by a greater power is very important for growth and success in life.
For Cleveland High School, the Stutzman triplets have made the most of their God-given ability and worked together to make a difference.
In fact, sisters Lauren and Erin along with their brother, Logan, have defied the odds to achieve great success.
Over the past four seasons, the Lady Blue Raiders soccer team has been blessed to have a stopper in front of goal ready to sacrifice her body for any ball coming her way.
From an incredible 25-save performance against Walker Valley her sophomore year to making a pair of penalty kick saves to beat Bradley Central in a PK shootout in the dark this season, Lauren will leave behind a lasting mark.
The all-time leader in saves for CHS, who had 159 stops this season, was awarded the Defensive MVP award this season despite being the shortest goalkeeper in District 5-AAA.
“First, I have to give all the glory to God,” Lauren Stutzman said. “I have always had the drive to be the best, and being a little undersized wasn’t going to stop me from having a great career. I have had a lot of people tell me I am too short to be a goalkeeper, and I think I have proved them all wrong.”
Known by her brother and sister as one of the hardest workers they ever met, Stutzman’s dedication to her craft and staying on the ball led to a golden opportunity to play college soccer for Lee University next fall.
From midnight runs to hours working on deflecting shots, nothing came to her from sitting back.
“I think what has helped me the most is that I have made the most of my athletic ability,” Lauren said. “Also, having qualities that cannot be taught is something that has brought me a long way as an athlete. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to be great.”
While serving as the backbone of the Lady Blue Raiders defense that held opposition to 16 shutouts over the past four seasons, Lauren and Logan believe their sister has been the key glue in a strong “best friend” type relationship for the triplets.
As a role model displaying strength and a never give up attitude, Erin has battled her way to be able to make an impact on the athletics field.
“I found out I had scoliosis in sixth grade, and I wore a brace three years,” Erin said. “In my sophomore year I had to have spinal fusion surgery to straighten my spine. There are two bars and 19 screws in my back now.”
Still within six months after the surgery, Stutzman was back out competing for the CHS track team, with which she made it to the TSSAA state tournament as a part of the 4x400 race her freshman year.
Erin was also a vital piece to the Lady Blue Raiders soccer team on both sides of the ball this season.
“It has taken a tremendous amount of fight to come back from a surgery like I had,” she said. “But I learned a lot about myself through the process and I have grown so much as a person as well as an athlete.
“Nearly having sports taken away from me has made me respect the little things in life even more. During the recover process, all I wanted to do was get back on the field and on the track. I have been able to fight back and do what I love for Cleveland.”
While Erin will go on to pursue a career in nursing at either Tennessee Tech or ETSU away from her siblings, a powerful triplet bond will not be separated.
“We have a very strong bond that I wouldn’t trade for the world,” she said. “We have always been really close, and our current relationship is stronger than ever. We will always be there for one another no matter where we are.”
Meanwhile, on the gridiron this season Logan has helped shape Cleveland’s defense as a trustworthy outside linebacker.
After leading his team with 55 tackles, five pass break ups and five takeaways (3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles) through his teams first seven games, a shoulder injury during a victory against Heritage was thought to be season-ending.
However, the 5-3 Blue Raiders will receive a big boost as their defensive captain will be able to return way sooner than expected this week when they host Ooltewah in a battle for third-place in Region 2-6A this Friday for Senior Night.
“To have the opportunity to come back and play my last two regular season games is something that means the world to me,” Logan said. “I really was at a loss when I thought my senior season was ended short. To be here fighting with my teammates toward a postseason run means everything.”
The 6-foot, 170-pound sure-tackler has been a key source of strength the past two seasons in giving opposing offenses trouble.
In 13 career starts he has compiled 115 tackles, four interceptions, forced seven fumbles (three recoveries) and deflected nine passes.
With college interest from Carson-Newman and Sewanee, Stutzman hopes he can prove his strong technique and form tackling along with passion is something he can continue to showcase at the next level.
“I take pride in being able to put myself in the right place at the right time,” Logan said. “I love when I can hustle across the field to make a tackle right at the line of scrimmage or cause a turnover. I know I am not very big, but I always try to go above and beyond to make the defense mesh together.”
Logan also plays soccer and shares the common trait of being a defensive stopper with his sisters.
“We have always been a competitive trio,” he said. “Whether it was racing to the car or who could finish dinner first. We love to push ourselves to the max and go as far as we can. We definitely share a relationship a lot of siblings don’t get to have.”
While all three triplets have helped guide one another in their sporting careers and in the classroom, as they have shared classes together, they give credit to their parents Ed and Kathy Stutzman and older brother Evan.
“Evan really was a strong role model for us when we were growing up and made sure we were prepared for anything that came our way,” Logan said. “He is the sports information director at Cleveland State. Athletics runs deep in our family.”
Kathy won a state championship in basketball while Ed was a multi-sport athlete at Deland High School in Florida.
“I would be nothing without my mom and dad,” Lauren added “They deserved all the credit for everything Erin, Logan, Evan and I have done. None of it would have been accomplished without their willingness to put us before them.”
With their prep careers coming to a conclusion this school year, the Stutzman triplets have been able to leave a lasting imprint for Cleveland.
“I hope my siblings and I leave behind a legacy that will motivate and inspire other students, athletes and siblings in our community,” Erin said. “When people think of us, I want them to be able to say that hard work and dedication in the classroom and athletic field will pay off.
“We want to lead by example and show that doing things the right way now will always be beneficial and will have a lasting impact on success in the future. Nothing comes before family.”
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