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How a Fall River soccer player took her career to Illinois

Haley Smith says 2019 was 'the best year' for building team's community

3 min read
caption Haley Smith in goal for Illinois State University.
Illinois State University

Like many young Nova Scotians, Haley Smith played on a Timbits soccer team as a child.

But where her career took her is much more uncommon.

After leaving the small community of Fall River, N.S., and attending an American preparatory school, Illinois State University recruited Smith as a goalie for the women’s soccer team where she played from 2016 to 2019.

The team saw great success her first year.

“We made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, which was huge, being a freshman,” said Smith.

The next two years didn’t garner the same results. Smith said after the 2016 season, the team lost many of their star players, meaning her second and third years were dedicated to rebuilding the team.

This only made her want that same success even more for her senior year.

“We wanted to get the team back on track before we all left this year, and I think we did that,” said Smith.

Smith said to accomplish that, she wanted to build a stronger community within the team.

“[Smith] really does deeply care about every single one of her teammates and cares about them growing not only as a player, but as a person,” Jenny Scara, who played at Illinois State with Smith for three years, said in an interview.

The team may have done well in 2016, but Smith said it was primarily the stars doing the bulk of the work while everyone else was in the background.

But 2019 was a different story.

“Last year was probably the best year of soccer … everyone getting along, everyone having fun,” she said.

caption Haley Smith gearing up for a kick during an Illinois State game.
Illinois State University

They also had great success, making it to the Missouri Valley Conference Women’s Soccer Championship.

Smith and her teammates’ efforts did not go unnoticed. Head coach Brad Silvey was quoted in a recap for the championship game: “This senior class did their part in getting us back on track on a championship trajectory.”

While Smith said her greatest success at Illinois State was the position she left the team in at the end of the season. She won’t return in 2020 because she’ll graduate this year.

Others in the community noticed another accomplishment.

“A lot of players grow more confident, but with Haley specifically, you could really see her confidence grow,” said Silvey.

He transitioned from being her assistant coach in her first year to head coach for the next three.

“She used to let little things get to her,” said Scara. “But the more experience she got and the more she did have to endure on the field, the better she got with dealing with those sorts of things.”

Smith said she got more confident in her game by learning to trust both her decisions and the community she helped build.

“Some days are going to be hard, some days are going to be nearly impossible, but being with your teammates and seeing them support you is what gets you through it,” said Smith.

Upon graduation, she intends to attend chiropractic school. Smith hopes to stay in soccer by continuing to play and, maybe someday, coaching.

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About the author

Olivia Malley

Hailing from Dartmouth Nova Scotia, Olivia is a journalist passionate about the HRM. Outside of reporting she enjoys singing in King's a capella...

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