Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
BOULDER — Most people are lucky enough to find their passion in life by the time they get to high school or college … and others never find it.
Tea Smith found hers when she was 3 years old and all it took was a soccer ball. She has been going full throttle since and doesn’t show any signs of letting up.
Following in the footsteps of her sister Reci, who set the standard for goal scoring at Fairview with 52, Tea Smith has continued the family tradition of success with the Knights and has even greater aspirations going forward in 2017.
“The game has been a huge part of my life and something that I always felt I could always get better at and grow,” said Smith, who has 28 career goals for the Knights. “Once it started getting competitive, it all changed. It wasn’t just going out there and running around, now you were playing for something.”
And despite how easy she makes it look, Tea Smith has put in a lot of time and effort to becoming the not only the prolific goal scorer she has become, but more the all-around players that is a benefit to the rest of her team.
Jeff Frykholm, who has coached the Fairview boys team for the last several years, took over the girls program this year and has seen the work-ethic that his striker has put into her craft.
“A lot of times goal scorers get their reputation being the one who is in the right place at the right time, and that is true for Tea, but there is so much more to her. She is the most relentless, hardest working kid and she is powerful,” said Frykholm, who is also the Director of Soccer Education at FC Boulder. “Yes, she does get some of those goals that come gift wrapped for a striker; but in fairness to her, she works extremely hard and a number of the goals that she has either scored herself or have helped to created have just been sheer work and that is something I respect about her.”
In last week’s showdown with then No. 4 Legacy, Smith was again at her best. The Lightning, even minus some of their key players due to club commitments, had put the clamps on the Smith and the Knights in the first half but couldn’t contain her for 80 minutes.
“It was a great match against a well-coached and very skilled opponent. We had a hard time creating the quality chances and we just weren’t threatening and Tea took it upon herself in the second half,” Frykholm said. “The first goal was almost like slow motion, she was not going to be denied and she had the composure at the end of a physical battle to put the ball away.”
Not only did Smith bag the equalizer, but in double overtime, her second goal of the game sealed the deal.
“It was such a great win and a team effort to win it in double overtime,” said Smith, who was quick to mention her other favorite highlight of her prep career to date. “The Boulder game last year, going into overtime and it’s always nice to beat Boulder.”
And while, Tea Smith has forged her own identity — one that has earned her a scholarship next season to North Carolina State — she is quick to pay homage to Reci, who was instrumental in helping her become the player she is today.
“I’ve learned everything I know from her and from my family and what they have taught her. She is a big part of who I am and who I have become as a player and I feel like we are very similar because of that,” Tea said. “She still helps me and we are both very competitive, especially with her records. I’m not even close, but it is still something to strive for even though it is not very realistic.”
Things should get really interesting next fall, when Reci — who will be starting her junior season at nearby Wake Forest — and the Demon Deacons play Tea’s Wolfpack.
“My whole family will be there and we have a bunch of friends who are coming out to see it, so it’s going to be a pretty big thing,” said Tea, whose current team will travel to Recht Field on Saturday afternoon for their annual match against Boulder. “My parents don’t know what they are going to do, it’s going to rough for them.”