A dream turned into a nightmare in an instant for Sophia Smith.
“I was going to score,” Smith said describing the play that ended her freshman year at Stanford.
Smith had already scored against Utah and was one on one with the goalkeeper looking to take her tally to two when a defender slid in from behind. Smith was writhing in pain and everyone could tell the tackle caused some serious damage.
A trip to the hospital revealed that she had broken her ankle and had torn multiple ligaments. Smith missed the last five games of the NCAA season. Despite this, she was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and the Pac-12 freshman team of the year.
“You can let it break you and take your motivation away, or you can let it motivate you and open your eyes and help you see how grateful you need to be for being able to run, walk,” Smith said. “I kept a positive attitude and saw the good in everything and tried to find what positive things can come out of a not very positive situation. I think that’s what helped time go by fast and helped me get through my progression.”
Smith went through eight grueling months of recovery. But her perseverance paid off as she went on to star in the 2019 College Cup demonstrating skill and movement that gave no indication of her previous injury.
On Dec. 6, 2019, Stanford were vying for a place in the NCAA College Cup Final against No. 7 UCLA. Smith dribbled into the opposition’s final third, cutting in from the right wing to get around one defender. She used a quick burst of pace to spin her defender and fired a low shot from the top of the six-yard box, nutmegging the keeper. 2-0 Stanford.
UCLA halved the Cardinal lead, but Smith got the ball on the right-hand side again. At the top of the 18 she cut inside and slotted a low curler in the back of the net.
She got the ball at the top of the 18 again. By then, UCLA knew how this was going to end. Smith shimmied her shoulders to get outside her defender and fired another shot in the bottom left corner of the UCLA net.
Who else can't stop watching Sophia Smith's hat trick? pic.twitter.com/MAKh8BoEPX— The Equalizer (@EqualizerSoccer) December 7, 2019
The National Championship was to be decided between the Cardinal and perennial powerhouse North Carolina. Smith stepped up to take the second penalty for Stanford. The sophomore stepped up and down, up and down, then stutter-stepped into a fast run-up and fired the penalty to the keeper’s right, bulging the back of the net. She could not hold back her infectious smile as she fist-pumped and ran back to midfield.
Smith and the Stanford Cardinal were the 2019 National Champs. She scored seven goals throughout the tournament.
Smith was expected to be the first pick of the NWSL draft before she ever went to Stanford. She was born in Windsor, Colorado in 2000 and grew up playing basketball and soccer. We are lucky she chose soccer because her family is actually a basketball family. Her father, Kennedy Smith, played basketball at the University of Wyoming and her sister, Savannah, is a record-breaking basketball player at the University of Northern Colorado.
She played club soccer from 2014-2018 for REAL Colorado, the same club Mallory Pugh played for. Smith impressed from the start and was starring on the under-17 national team at 15. Similarly, she played for the u-20’s at 17 and was called up to the senior national team before starting college. At Stanford, she scored only 17 minutes into her debut and provided an assist. Between her freshman and sophomore years, she scored 17 goals in 21 appearances and won the Pac-12 twice and the College Cup once.
On January 16, 2020, the Portland Thorns drafted her as the youngest draftee in NWSL history and the third Stanford player in a row to go number one.
“I’m feeling awesome,” Smith said. “It’s pretty surreal, and it feels like it hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m beyond excited to go to Portland and play in that environment.”
Smith is lightning quick, has a great understanding of the game, techy footwork and a vicious shot. She also is level-headed, determined and seems like a well of positive energy with a smile constantly on her face.
Thorns fans, you should be just as excited to see Smith play as she is to play in front of you.