Injured, a bit disenchanted and a little homesick, Serena Smith was ready to give up on softball three years ago.
Despite a lifetime of playing, and with a promising Division I career ahead of her, Smith convinced herself she was ready to be just a college student. She told her parents she was leaving Western Carolina University and was interested in transferring to UNCCharlotte.
But once 49ers coach Aimee DeVos learned the news, it didn't take her long to change Smith's mind about softball.
Smith quickly turned into one of Charlotte's most productive offensive players. Three years later, she is on the verge of adding to her school records, during a span that's a year shorter than most career record holders.
Smith, the daughter of Trent and Gina Smith, played four years of softball at Northwest Cabarrus High, where her mom coached her as an all-conference volleyball player. In softball, she was a four-time all-North Piedmont Conference selection, and The Observer selected her as the school's female athlete of the year as a senior.
Quite aware of the relationship between tournament softball and college recruiting, Smith admitted she was never a "fan of the process."
"It was definitely intimidating," she said. "You felt like no one knew you. It felt like it was a huge meat market and (college recruiters) wanted to pick the right piece of meat."
Smith narrowed her choices to UNCGreensboro and Elon University. Western Carolina entered the game late, and Charlotte never was a serious player.
Western had just completed its inaugural season, but Smith found great respect for Catamounts coach Megan Smith. A week Serena Smith arrived at Western, however, the coach bolted for LSU, and the softball program suffered through a year of instability.
Smith started 22 games for the Catamounts and finished third in batting with a .333 average. Then she broke her left (glove) hand diving for a ball in left field and was out for the season. She had played just enough games to make her ineligible to redshirt the season.
Smith was tired of softball, and she was tired of being so far from home. She told her parents she was transferring to Charlotte.
"I knew she had the talent to compete," Trent Smith said. "I kind of thought at the time that she wasn't thinking rationally. I tried to tell her you're only young once and you're going to be old for a long time. Plus you have the chance to have your education paid for."
Serena Smith said, "Being that young, 18 years old, you think you know everything. And you have to figure out where you're going and where you want to be."
After the transfer, DeVos contacted her, and Smith was able to get released from her scholarship at Western. That meant she did not have to forfeit a year of eligibility.
Charlotte's field was very kind to Smith while she was at Western. During a 2007 tournament at Charlotte, Smith had a 4-for-4 game against Marshall and hit her first collegiate home run against UNCG.
Charlotte had no room in its infield, but Smith could play outfield, and there was definitely room in the lineup for her left-handed bat. As a sophomore she set the 49ers' single-season record with 71 hits.
"To have a transfer to come in from day one and have that kind of offensive ability, we can't recruit that," DeVos said.
As a junior, she led Charlotte in batting average, hits, RBI and total bases and was named first team all-Atlantic 10 Conference.
As of April 19, she was one RBI away from breaking the school career record (113).
Two weeks are left in the 49ers' regular season before the A-10 tournament in Amherst, Mass., May 12-15.