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Consistent midfielder leads young Knights
By Derek Neice

The 2011 Calvin women’s soccer team was comprised of several young players looking to prove themselves on the field as well as learn what they could from those who already had a wealth of experience playing Calvin soccer.

One such leader for the team this fall was Calvin junior Francesca Smith. Commonly called “Frannie” by teammates, coaches and friends, Smith has been a hardworking player and key cog in the Calvin midfield for each of the past three seasons. Starting in all 61 possible games over her career as a Knight, she has gained valuable insights in leadership, which in turn greatly helped her become one of the more influential players on and off the field this year.

A native of Bloomington, Ind., and graduate of Bloomington South High School, Smith got her start in soccer early on, even though no one else in her family played the sport. Participating on club teams growing up, she loved playing and continued to excel, and so she ended up bringing her game to Calvin.

“I was really looking to play soccer [in college],” Smith said of her decision to become a Knight. “I had heard about Calvin from some friends, so I came and visited and it seemed like a really good fit.”

But soccer was not the only reason for coming to Calvin. It was the combination of a Christian education, quality academics and soccer that attracted Smith.

Coming in and starting immediately as a freshman, Smith found herself in a starting lineup that would make it all the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division III tournament. That year—especially the deep tournament run—allowed Smith to gain unique soccer knowledge and experience, as well as giving her one of her favorite soccer memories as a Calvin player.

“Coming in my freshman year I didn’t really know what to expect,” Smith said. “But being able to come in and play at such a high level right away was really special, and that first year was just a lot of fun and definitely a highlight.”

This past fall was again a special one for Smith, but in a different way. Calvin’s season ended with the Knights falling in their final match against Kalamazoo College and barely missing the cut to play in the MIAA postseason tournament. Despite this, Smith said she is very proud of how her team performed this year, especially with such a young roster. The growth that the team experienced is the same kind she was fortunate to gain early on in her Calvin career.

“This year especially was a really good experience to play with such a young team,” Smith said. “I’m really proud of how much we improved over the course of the season, so that was really cool to see.”

Statistically, Smith has contributed well to the Calvin attack in each of her three seasons, as well as functioning as a pacesetter in the midfield. With 13 goals and 15 assists to her credit, she has twice been selected to the All-MIAA first team, both in 2010 and 2011.

In 2010, Smith showed her knack for playing in big games as she provided the necessary spark to defeat some talented teams, scoring game-winning goals to knock off both Wheaton College and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire 1-0. Her presence in the midfield as both a scorer and ball distributor has been second to none, and off the field, Smith is equally hardworking.

Smith is a speech pathology major, and she is planning on earning a master’s degree in the new program that Calvin offers. Her hope is to work as a speech pathologist with kids, possibly in a school setting.

She will return next fall in hopes of leading the now more experienced Knights.