The fluorescent green headband and shoes stood out, but they weren’t the reason Reci Smith was the most distinctive player on the Recht Field pitch Saturday night.
The Fairview striker arguably is the finest girls soccer player in the area, and host Boulder would have known where she was at all times even without the aid of the vibrant colors.
But despite being heavily marked as usual, the Wake Forest-bound senior once again found a way to guide the Knights to victory. Her goal in the 60th minute broke a scoreless tie in a theretofore evenly-played match, and Fairview went on to defeat the Panthers 2-0 for a key Front Range League win.
“To be honest, it went really quick,” Smith said. “I think there was a corner kick and it was kind of fumbling around. I got a touch on it at first and then I had a gap so I kicked at it and slid it in.”
The corner kick came from Sophie Fear, who added a dagger goal in the 78th minute on a pass from Tea Smith, allowing the Knights (5-0-1, 3-0-1) to escape a scary match with a flourish.
“We talked about playing the full 80 minutes and our girls did a great job,” Fairview coach Dan Niedringhaus said. “It all started with our seniors. They knew this was the last time they’d ever play on this field against this team and a bunch of girls they’re really good friends with. The rest of the team just took the lead from them.”
Boulder (4-3, 2-2) forced Fairview goalie Laura Hutchinson to make a handful of difficult saves and the Panthers had several other chances go just wide. Bridget Toll whistled a shot just to the right of the net in the first half, and the Panthers nearly broke through on two consecutive set pieces in the second.
“You can’t fault the effort on our side of the ball,” Boulder coach Ryan Henkel said. “We had to have an extraordinary effort to play a team with that kind of talent. They have talent from player one to player 18 on that team and we knew we had to give everything we had.”
Henkel coached Reci Smith for five years beginning at age 10, so he applauded her for notching the game-winner. He only wished it didn’t happen against his squad. Henkel termed it “a great game for the town” because of the friendship aspects of the rivalry.
And like any traditional rivalry, there is a fierceness to it.
“It was definitely high in emotions,” Smith said. “A lot rides on this game; it’s cross-town rivals. We talk about not being scared for games. There’s a difference between being nervous and anxious, and I think all of us were anxious and ready to play.”
Smith has recovered nicely from two broken bones in her lower leg, an injury suffered in the second round of the playoffs last season. She missed the club season while recovering but already has six goals this spring.
“I’m confident that I’ll get back to where I was, but I don’t feel like I’m there yet,” Smith said. “I think it’s the little things that are still coming, like my side-to-side stepping and agility kind of stuff.
“But I’m not afraid of it happening again. I can’t really play like that.”
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Fairview 2, Boulder 0
At Recht Field
Fairview (5-0-1, 3-0-1) 0 2 — 2
Boulder (4-3, 2-2) 0 0 — 0
Goals (assists) — Fairview: Reci Smith (Sophie Fear), 60th minute; Fairview: Sophie Fear (Tea Smith), 78th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Fairview: Laura Hutchinson (80-0-6); Boulder: Faviola Morquecho (80-2-5).