Erin Smithâ€™s soccer journey began her when she was just five years old in the state of Washington.
Now entering her senior season at East Lincoln, her extensive soccer background, one that includes playing at a premier level the past seven years, has helped her land a scholarship at the College of Charleston.
Highly-recruited by UNC Charlotte, UNC Wilmington, NC State, the University of Kentucky, Campbell University, Western Carolina University and Applachian State University, Smith decided she wanted to be a Cougar.
â€œThe campus is gorgeous and the history is amazing. The coach (Kevin Dempsey) and the assistant coach (Tim Santoro) have been highly recommended to me by numerous people,â€ she said.
Helping the Cougarsâ€™ recruiting cause was the fact Smith ran into two players from Charlotteâ€™s Soccer Club, whom Smith plays for, who currently are on the College of Charlestonâ€™s team
â€œWhen I ran into two of them, on my official visit, it was pretty funny. It was nice to see familiar faces and to see how much they liked it,â€ she said.
Dempsey, who is 10-9-73-13 in his four years as head coach, is coming off a 12-5-3 record in the Southern Conference. The coach believes itâ€™s not out of the realm of possibility for Smith to start her freshman season. Smith has bigger goals.
â€œI want to compete for the starting position. I want to be able to go in and do my thing and hopefully lead the team to a Southern Conference Title,â€ she said.
Smithâ€™s current head coach Jason Dragoon believes she came to him as a sophomore already polished.
â€œShe got her Division 1 scholarship from her hard work and really from the coaching sheâ€™s received over the years in Washington, while she lived in Texas and through eliteGK. Theyâ€™ve done an excellent job with her,â€ he said.
Dragoon believes Smith has been more like a player/coach than just a player.
â€œErin is by far the most talented soccer player Iâ€™ve ever coached. She has done more for my program than I have done for her. She has more experience than any of my girls combined playing at a high level,â€ he said.
The 5â€™10â€ goalkeeper, with the distraction of being recruited out of the way, is focused on helping the Mustangs win the Big South 3A Conference title.
â€œI want to finish my high school career and hopefully come away with a conference title,â€ she said.
Already in her illustrious high school career, Smith has been named team MVP, as well as a Big South All-Conference performer in back-to-back years. In 2004, she was also named All-Region leading East Lincoln to its first State Playoff appearance in school history.
Having traveled from coast-to-coast, with such huge hype, Smith was determined to prove to her peers/new classmates she was as good as advertised.
â€œWhen I first came, I had a lot of glaring eyes because people had heard things about my ability level. My first year it was like a highlight year, because I had to prove to myself and everyone else what I thought I could do and how much I could help the team,â€ she said.
Last season, Smith finished with an astounding .850 save percentage to go along with seven shutouts.
Her trainer Scott Schweitzer has helped Smith become more skilled.
â€œAfter I moved from Washington, he was the first person that was recommended to me for goal keeping. Heâ€™s the first GK coach Iâ€™ve found that can develop someoneâ€™s technical skills just by repetition and his training sessions are very strict and demanding, but I owe him a lot because thatâ€™s what I needed,â€ she said.
Transferring across the nation has at times been hard for Smith, but she believes her parents have helped her make the transition as smoothly as possible.
â€œItâ€™s always difficult just transferring between places and finding a level thatâ€™s competitive enough. My parents made sure I was put in the right place. I owe a lot to them for making sure I found what I was looking for. Iâ€™m also grateful for them letting me drive as much as a hour to practiceâ€”thatâ€™s a lot of gas money,â€ Smith said.
While so much of Smithâ€™s book remains unwritten, just how far can she take her talent?
â€œHer athleticism is there, her competitive spirit is there, her size is there. With her work ethic, along with those thingsâ€”the professional realm, I believe is not out of her reach,â€ Dragoon said.
The pros may have to wait, sheâ€™s still got her senior season to play.
by John Mark Brooks