Shortly after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime for Sacred Heart Greenwich in the FAA field hockey tournament final, Ryan Smith was in the gym working on her basketball skills. And when the Tigers’ basketball season concludes, Smith will head to the lacrosse field to prepare for her squad’s spring campaign.
Smith is truly an athlete for all seasons.
Whether it’s lacrosse, field hockey or basketball, the Sacred Heart junior is usually right in the middle of the action. Though some athletes prefer to focus their attention on the sport in which they most excel, Smith enjoys playing one each season. Field hockey in the fall, basketball in the winter and lacrosse in the spring is the athletic schedule she follows.
“Being involved in athletics each season is a time commitment,” Smith said. “Two hours a day, Monday to Saturday and each season overlaps until the next season, there is no break. But it’s something that I love doing. For me, it’s the best part of high school.”
Each sport involves different skills and challenges, which Smith embraces.
“Playing different sports is something I am passionate about said Smith, a Port Chester, N.Y., resident. “Narrowing it down to one sport, I feel can be a little bit risky, because you can get bored from it. I have seen people get burnt out playing one sport and I like playing three sports. I believe it enhances your overall ability as an athlete and makes you a more dynamic player.”
Smith began playing lacrosse when she was in kindergarten. By the time she reached high school, her talent was well known. She gave a verbal commitment to play on the women’s lacrosse team at Division I Boston College her freshman year at Sacred Heart.
“I wanted to pursue lacrosse at the next level at a school that I love and the feeling I got at Boston College when I first stepped on the field during a tour made me realize that I wanted to go there,” said Smith, who visited Boston College on Monday for a winter lacrosse camp. “Every time I go back there I love it even more.”
Coached by Acacia Walker, who was selected as the National Coach of the Year by the Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association in 2017, Boston College made it to the championship game of the Division I tournament last season, where it lost to Maryland 16-13.
“Playing lacrosse there is something I have been wanting to do since forever, I look forward to it every day,” Smith said. “It gives me a purpose to continue to improve.”
Boston College lacrosse is in the Smith family. Smith’s father, Scott ,played lacrosse for the Eagles for four seasons and her mother, Maggie, played for one year.
A threat on both ends of the field, Ryan made Sacred Heart’s varsity lacrosse team as a freshman and and was one of the squad’s leading scorers the past two seasons. Her 2017 lacrosse season for the Tigers ended with a four-goal, two-assist performance in the team’s 18-5 win over Greens Farms Academy in the FAA championship game .
Tigers lacrosse coach Tara Clough is highly impressed with what she’s witnessed from Smith the past two seasons.
“Ryan is a gifted athlete with tremendous work ethic and determination,” Clough said. “She is competitive and passionate about the game of lacrosse. She is explosive off the draw and hustles for every 50/50 ground ball opportunity.”
Like most standout players, Smith has a knack for making those around her achieve.
“Ryan is a very smart athlete and natural leader on the field,” Clough said. “She anticipates well and has strong field vision. On offense, she is comfortable with her stick and is a playmaker, who looks to create opportunities for her teammates.”
Smith enjoys every aspect of her favorite sport.
“I love playing it, watching it and teaching it,” she said. “I would love to pursue it at possibly, a coaching level.”
Though Smith began playing lacrosse as a 5 year old, she didn’t get introduced to field hockey until she arrived at Sacred Heart as a freshman. That didn’t stop her from making the school’s varsity field hockey team as a freshman.
“She’s one of those rare, exceptional athletes that comes along every so often,” said Sarah Hill, who coaches the Sacred Heart field hockey team, along with Alex Gheorghe. “Her work ethic, enthusiasm, spirit and athleticism are what makes her such a great student-athlete.”
Hill has seen Smith improve greatly since her freshman season.
“Her stick skills have gotten 110 percent better and her speed has always been there,” Hill said. “The minute she steps on the field she is all about the game. She is a three-sport athlete who puts so much into every sport.”
Smith provided the Sacred Heart field hockey team with perhaps its most exciting moment in the program’s history this past fall.
Her goal with 4:05 remaining in overtime lifted Sacred Heart to a 2-1 win over rival Greenwich Academy in the title game of the FAA Tournament on Nov. 10. The victory gave the Tigers their first FAA Tournament championship.
“That game was something else, we’ll never forget it,” Smith said. “We were in it the whole time against a great team like GA and never let up the entire game. While the end result was amazing, just looking back at how we played the entire game is what we’re really proud of.
“Coach Hill and coach Gheorghe molded me into the field hockey player I am today and they made me love the game. I didn’t even know the rules when I joined the team my freshman year and I remember that first day of practice during the preseason was intimidating. But they were there to help me develop my skills and learn about the sport.”
A starting guard on the Tigers’ basketball team, which is 4-4, Smith is known for her aggressive defensive play and hustle. She’s comfortable in her role as one of the team’s complementary players.
“Basketball is definitely one of my biggest challenges since I don’t play it all the time,” she said. “I don’t have a great shot, so I have to work that much harder on my defense and basketball IQ. I try to focus on doing the little things to help the team.”
Smith’s significance to the squad hasn’t gone unnoticed by Sacred Heart basketball coach Ayo Hart.
“She is a coach’s dream,” Hart said of Smith. “She is a three-sport athlete, who comes to the court with a high IQ. Ryan gets spacing, she gets cutting, she understands the importance of passing. If she turns the ball over, she is the first one running down the court to try to get the ball back.”
Besides playing three sports at Sacred Heart, Smith gets to do so with her younger sister Morgan, a sophomore at the school. Morgan Smith is also a strong player on the Tigers’ field hockey, basketball and lacrosse teams.
“We played in the backyard together as kids, now we get to play every sport together in school,” Ryan Smith said. “I am so lucky to play alongside my best friend, who motivates me to never, ever settle and get better each and every day, as she does.”