Tea Smith fits just fine in her own soccer cleats, thank you very much.
The Fairview junior forward has likely been compared to her older sister, Reci, a thousand times over during the years — and truth be told it's warranted with the school records Reci Smith left with as a Knight.
However, as head coach Dan Niedringhaus has watched Tea blossom into a force up front within the uber-competitive Front Range League, he said he's always tried to view the siblings in a completely different light.
"Ever since Tea joined us in her freshman season I always tried to separate the two because they are their own people and I don't want Tea to think she needs to live up to Reci," Niedringhaus said after Tuesday's 2-2 draw at Broomfield — a game in which Smith had several runs at the goal but finally was held without one in a game this year. "She is a much different player in the way she attacks. About the only way they might be similar is that they can absolutely crush a ball."
After scoring six goals and adding seven assists as a sophomore, Tea Smith is on pace to shatter a single season goal-scoring record her sister set when she was a junior.
Through five games played — she did miss the game at Monarch with her Real Colorado team participating in a national tournament in California — Tea has nine goals. Reci had 21 total goals in 2014 to set the school standard.
As evidenced in her runs against Broomfield on Tuesday, Smith is supremely confident in her ability with the ball on her feet and a defender marking her.
She is perhaps more eager to beat said defender 1-on-1 into the scoring area than she is to beat a goalie after receiving a perfectly placed through ball. But she definitely has had some help from teammates setting her up to score, and it has helped the Knights to a 4-1-1 mark so far.
"I often like to take the ball on my own, but it's also fun to get the through balls," Tea said. "It's just a mentality I have of watching defenders and seeing what they are going to do, seeing what I can do to get around them myself."
"Whether it's in practice or a game, she just wants to win and she works hard to do what it takes," Niedringhaus said. "Her game is on the attack 1-versus-1 and she seems to have an extra speed that allows her to go by people pretty quickly. We don't really hit her on through balls as much, we want her to attack in the way she does."
Perhaps no one is cheering more for Tea than Reci, even from the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she is a freshman for the Demon Deacons.
When Tea scored a hat trick against Cherry Creek that included the game-winner, it was Reci who offered a shout-out via Twitter. The two remain in constant contact, though it was not disclosed as to whether school records have been part of the conversation quite yet.
"She helps me out a lot and I know she keeps up with the stats," Tea said. "She's always here even when she's not here."