Sarafina Smith still can’t quite believe it.
The Francis Lewis senior wasn’t counting on a championship berth this season or a historic run with the Patriots in her final year on the field, but that’s exactly what happened, and Smith is still a bit surprised by her squad’s success.
And her own success.
The senior was the Patriots’ leader this fall, playing a handful of positions and igniting the squad’s focus every match. It’s because of that determination – and success – that Smith is the TimesLedger’s Queens Player of the Year.
“It’s really just shock. That’s the first thing I think because we didn’t really imagine us making it to the finals,” Smith said. “I’m just so proud we were able to accomplish so much.”
Smith’s role as leader started with her performance on the Patriots’ defensive line, a group that was nothing short of dominant this fall despite not playing together prior to this season. Smith saw it as her job to make sure the group found even footing immediately.
“My role was to keep the girls on track and guide them on how best to defend opposing teams,” she said. “I just wanted to keep the girls focused and calm during the games.”
Smith executed her role to near perfection and Francis Lewis’ defensive line didn’t give up a single goal during its undefeated regular-season run. The group was a wall in front of net, rarely even giving opposing squads the opportunity to get a shot on goal, let alone the chance to put points on the board.
It was, of course, a group effort and Smith will be the first to point out that she was flanked by a confident group of teammates, but the senior was the unquestioned leader of the group, an experienced presence on the roster that the Patriots grew to depend on.
“I knew what we had to do,” Smith said. “And we all got to know each other off the field and know how we play together. It was mostly that, understanding each other when we play.”
She may have been a leader on defense, but Smith didn’t play exclusively on the back line. In fact, she relished the rare opportunity to showcase her skills in other positions throughout the season.
Smith notched five goals on just 11 shots during the regular season in addition to her two assists.
“I was thankful that I could showcase all the stuff I had,” she said. “It was nice to be able to control the field when I wasn’t back on defense and some people didn’t know all the stuff I could do.”
The Patriots were certainly disappointed with the way the season ended – falling to Beacon 5-1 in the city final – but Smith can’t find it in herself to be too upset with how it all ended. She’s focused on getting ready for college now and enjoying the final few months of her senior year.
Most importantly, however, she’s proud of the program she’s leaving behind – anxious to see what’s next for the Patriots.
“I hope and pray that they can keep up the good work and make it to the finals again and win the finals,” Smith said. “When and if they do make it to the finals next year, I will be in the crowd screaming my head off.”