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Oct 30, 2003

BOULDER--Colorado seniors Heather Hawkins, Orly Ripmaster and Emily Barnes will make their final home regular season appearance when they enter the starting lineup against No. 22 ranked Nebraska on north Boulder's Pleasant View Soccer Complex Friday at 2 p.m. in the regular season finale for both teams.a  With a Big 12 regular season title and Big 12 Tournament No. 1 seed already in hand, the Buffs still have something to prove against the Huskers, who are winners of six of the last seven meetings.


"I will remember what if felt like to be a part of something great.  I will remember those moments in practice or games when I could look at my teammates and know we were each putting our hearts on the line to work for this thing we all wanted so bad.  I will remember how good it felt to have the chance to do something I love every day," said senior Emily Barnes.


One at a time, three players, from three different places, two different colleges and with three different ways to contribute, found their way on to the pitch in Boulder.


Emily Barnes, Heather Hawkins and Orly Ripmaster each came to be a part of the winningest team in the program's history in their own way and their contributions since their arrival, what they hope to leave behind and what they will do once the season comes to a bittersweet end is as varied as how they got here.


One has witnessed first hand the transformation of the program, from its leanest season to its winningest, the second was here and took a chance when the new guard came to town, and the third joined the program from her own backyard to be a part of something never experienced in Boulder before.


Following a season at Notre Dame and a year off from school, Emily Barnes was on a family ski vacation in Colorado and stopped in Boulder to visit the campus.  Even before she saw the sprawling campus, she said, "This is where I'm going to school.  I could look at those mountains forever and never get sick of them."  Barnes found her way on to the CU roster as a walk on in 2001 and has played a supporting role in 21 games since.


She's had no regrets," I wouldn't trade my experiences and time at Notre Dame for anything but at the same time I absolutely love Colorado.  I feel like I could have been happy at either place but that going to both has allowed me to really appreciate each one individually and become a more well-rounded person."


A career that started as a spring drills walk-on her freshman year under the previous staff had grown into a full-time starting role as a junior before Heather Hawkins' senior season-ending knee injury in preseason workouts prior to the 2002 season. 


She returned to the pitch after a redshirt season this fall as co-captain in lieu of taking her recently earned bachelor's degree to be part of something exciting.


"I have the rest of my life to get on with the rest of my life. I only have my time here, this semester. I knew that this was going to be an exciting year, and I wanted to be a part of it," said Hawkins on her decision to stay.


A Boulder native turned Cambridge, Mass. resident, turned Buff graduate student, Orly Ripmaster made an immediate impact when she joined this year's team in August.  In her first, last and only season at the foot of the Flatirons, she has started every contest on the flank and has netted five goals.


"I've spent the better part of 19 or 20 years dedicated to athletics, and soccer. Being able to finish my eligibility on a level where I could respect myself meant a lot.  This is how I wanted to my career to end" at home, in Boulder with my parents watching.  It's the perfect way to go out," Ripmaster said on her decision to return to Boulder.


While they will leave the pitch Friday with a combined 60 matches played, and 12 points on 36 shots, they're hoping that what they leave behind will be significantly greater than the stats that will go in next year's media guide.


"I hope that the younger players realized that if they don't like what they're faced with, that they can change it.  That's really the genesis of me being here, I took control of my own situation," said the Harvard grad.  "You don't have to be a born leader to leave your mark.  I've only known these players for two months"that's a short amount of time, but hopefully I was able to give a little of my personality to these girls somehow."


In her four-plus seasons at CU, Hawkins has learned a lot from the players that came before her, "This semester has really made me appreciate Meghan Swanzy's situation last year (having played without the players she came in with do to a medical redshirt season) and I've learned to approach every day as if it were my last here.  I have fully embraced the younger players and they've fully embraced me."


She hopes that her experiences has had an impact on the players behind her, "I hope that I've left a positive outlook on life"the willingness to try new things and experience life to the fullest.  I hope that they've appreciated my effort, my being here and my work ethic."


Barnes can probably speak for all of them when asked what she'll miss the most about CU and playing soccer in Boulder, "I would say fitness but I love the rush you get after you fight through that point where you want to die or walk away from it all and you realize that you're stronger than you thought you were.  I could say 7 am practices but I sure as hell would rather wake up to play soccer than do anything else. I would say wearing the same sweats everyday to class but Im pretty sure I would do that anyway.  What I mean to say is that I will miss it all - I'm a sucker for it.  What I hate is having to walk away from it." 


As different as their arrivals were to the CU-Boulder campus, so are their post-season plans. 


"I don't even know what I'm doing next week," laughed Ripmaster.  "If I can finish my master's (in broadcast journalism) in a year and a half, I'll do that.  If it's going to take me two years, then I'll take a year off between the two   I really try not to think about growing up."


"I will graduate in May and plan on traveling to Australia and New Zealand," said Barnes.  "I also plan on playing my violin in an orchestra and winning the lottery so I can donate money to our program.  I would like to work for a short time in disease research to get some experience and then go to grad school in Molecular Biology or to medical school."


Hawkins has her immediate priorities in place, just not the long-term ones.  "My first priority is to find someone to sublease my room for the spring, then go to Mexico for Christmas with my family.  I'd like to move to Austin (Texas) with family and try my luck at pharmaceutical sales."


Ripmaster arrived at preseason drills as just one of two players (joining Emily Barnes) on this year's team to advance to an NCAA tournament, having done so three times at Harvard and Barnes once in South Bend.  She admits however, that what she has had the chance to experience in Boulder is much greater than her time on the Charles River.


"We were ranked eighth at Harvard and we were expected to go the NCAA Tournament every year, so sixth is the highest ranking team I've ever been a part of.  And that is so fantastic, so much fun.  And it seems to mean more here because this team knows where they came from.  It means more to the team, the town and the state.


"It means so much more to break expectations than to meet them."