You know things are going well for the Hickory Ridge girls' soccer team when Kristen Smith is playing defense.
When the Ragin' Bulls are able to build a big lead, it's not unusual for coach Mark McSwain to pull his top scorer from her forward position and put Smith in the back so she can get used to playing a little defense. He figures if his team has a lead in a big late-season matchup and needs a late-game stop, Smith's skills might come in handy.
Smith wasn't named Hickory Ridge's best offensive player in 2009 for making miraculous saves though. She is following up her 27-goal season last year by leading the Bulls in scoring again with 23 goals in 16 games as the Bulls approach the state playoffs.
Between soccer and volleyball, Smith is one of the most decorated two-sport athletes in Hickory Ridge's short history. With another selection this season almost certain, she will have garnered all-conference awards in both sports during her sophomore and junior years.
After spending her middle school years at C.C. Griffin Middle School, Smith came to Hickory Ridge as a freshman when it opened in fall 2007. She started on the varsity volleyball team as a ninth grader.
Smith helped Hickory Ridge to the South Piedmont 3A Conference championship as a sophomore, as the Bulls finished 18-5 overall and reached the second round of the state playoffs. A middle hitter and outside hitter, she was named the team's defensive player of the year all three years as a Bull.
Last fall, Hickory Ridge repeated as regular-season conference champs, sharing the title with Mount Pleasant. Once again, Smith's team fell in the second round of the state tournament.
In soccer, Smith scored the first goal in Hickory Ridge history in a 5-2 home loss to Porter Ridge. Admitting to a little nervousness and apprehension as an undersized varsity player, Smith was more of a passer, accumulating 10 goals and five assists as a freshman.
Having grown a couple inches to 5 feet 8 inches, Smith became half of Hickory Ridge's dynamic duo with junior forward Christine Lutz. With Lutz on the left and Smith on the right, they both scored 27 goals - and Smith added 20 assists - as Hickory Ridge put together an 18-5 overall record.
In a second-round state playoff game against Porter Ridge, Smith scored the Bulls' only goal to send the game to overtime. She pushed in one of Hickory Ridge's penalty kicks as the Bulls advanced to the third round.
With Lutz graduating early to enroll at Kentucky, much of the scoring load has fallen to Smith this season.
"She's extremely quick," said McSwain.
In a game against league-leading Northwest Cabarrus on Apr. 27, Smith scored the Bulls' only goal with about eight minutes remaining to force an overtime, and ultimately a tie score.
Playing with an injured foot during the second half of the season, Smith registered her second hat trick of the season when she scored three goals in the first six minutes against Carson. Later in the game, McSwain let her re-enter on defense.