After playing as the outside midfielder on the Central girls soccer team for three years now, Hope Smith was focused on being the best outside-mid she could be to help the Lady Chargers back to the playoffs.
Changes to the Central lineup forced interim head coach Lauren Arias to take up the wild idea of moving Smith to sweeper – a position she had never played before.
Oddly enough, Smith said, her two goals scored during the district schedule were from the sweeper spot, a primarily defensive position.
Smith is one of the more strategic-thinking and fundamentally-sound players who can adapt to most any need on the field.
Arias said when the idea came up to move Smith to sweeper, the senior was eager to comply.
“It was crazy moving her to sweeper, because it’s a nerve-wracking position,” Arias said. “She’s done what we’ve asked and more.
“She was more than willing,” Arias said. “She didn’t hesitate. Hope is always a team player and she has played such a huge role defensively. There are three of them out there that work well as a unit. They communicate and listen which make them such a strong unit together.”
The move has also made Smith a more complete player, she admits.
“It’s helped me grow as a player,” Smith, a Mississippi College commit, said. “It’s not my first choice as a position, but it’s taught me a lot about playing defense.”
At outside-mid, Smith said the comfort level gives her less panic, as there’s more space to play and she’s able to use her creativity.
“I like to play it smart and fill in a few flares that aren’t expected,” Smith said. “I’m conservative in my style, but in the moment, I’ll tend to play more creative when it’s just for fun,” she said. “I tend to focus more on strategy to get the job done.”
But her creativity comes from understanding the game and hard work.
Smith has learned to work on her right footwork. As a dominant left-footed player, Smith knows the ability to pass and dribble with both feet makes her more versatile and less predictable.
The desire for Smith to add skills reflects her maturity.
“Hope carries herself as someone older than just in high school. She’s known as the ‘mom of the team,’” Arias said, noting she doesn’t seem to get wrapped in the drama of school life. “She carries that focus into the game and is a quiet leader.”
The Lady Chargers’ mother figure still feels she’s approachable by the younger players and she’s helping lead Central down the stretch run for a playoff spot.
“Last year we went to the playoffs but we didn’t do well in the playoff game,” Smith said. “But because of that, we started to build up our program to have a better performance in this year’s playoffs.”