Smyda triplets prepare for final season at California University of Pennsylvania
Ashley, Bethany and Christy Smyda began playing soccer together when they were 4 years old, and their journey in the sport took them from peewee to Cup soccer, on to stardom at Penn-Trafford High School and eventually to California University of Pennsylvania.
That journey together will end this season, however, as the fraternal triplets will begin their final collegiate season Thursday when Cal U travels to play Slippery Rock.
“It's hard because we've been playing soccer our whole lives,” Christy Smyda said. “We know now that after this season we won't get to play, at least competitively, together. We'll still probably play after college, but not in a competitive manner. It's kind of just weird to think about life after soccer because the past 16 years, we've been going back and forth to soccer practice every day.”
The road wasn't always easy, but the sisters stuck with each other through Cup soccer — when they told each other they wouldn't play for a team if one of their sisters didn't make it — on to California, when the three decided to pursue soccer together at the NCAA Division II level.
“We visited all different colleges, but we didn't even have to talk about, ‘Oh, what if you go there, (or) what if you go here?'” Christy Smyda said. “It was like unspoken that we were all going to the same place.”
Through all levels, the three sisters excelled at different positions: Ashley at goalkeeper, Bethany at forward and Christy on defense.
“Christy was always right in front of me, and Bethany was right in front of her,” Ashley Smyda said. “It was always nice knowing they were there.”
The triplets, who graduated from Penn-Trafford in 2010, helped lead the Warriors to three section titles and a PIAA Class AAA runner-up finish in 2007. Bethany Smyda was named all-section and all-WPIAL twice and also garnered Tribune-Review Player of the Year honors.
Bethany's success didn't stop in college, as she was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference's Freshman of the Year in 2010 after scoring a team-leading 16 goals and 11 assists. But she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during the spring of 2011, causing her to watch from the sidelines as the Vulcans won the PSAC championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals during her sophomore year.
“I don't even want to remember it,” Bethany said of that season. “Luckily, the team did so well that it was enjoyable to watch. I actually had to videotape all the games. I was able to travel with the team (because) I was the videographer, and it was just terrible. I don't like remembering it.”
Bethany returned to action last season, scoring five goals and three assists as she worked herself back into game shape. She said she feels stronger heading into this season.
“I think last year was kind of a year to build up to this year,” she said. “I'm ready to go out there and do what I can do (and) play my hardest.”
Christy Smyda appeared in 30 games, including eight starts, in her first three seasons at Cal. Ashley appeared in two games, both as a reserve, during her freshman season.
All three sisters head into this season motivated after the Vulcans lost in the PSAC championship game and the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, with both defeats coming at the hands of Slippery Rock. Cal returns all but two players from that team.
“We all know how far we can go and what we can accomplish when we're together,” Ashley Smyda said. “I think we're all excited.”
After last season's disappointment, Cal enters the 2013 campaign with the goal of winning the PSAC Tournament and advancing to at least the NCAA semifinals.
For now, the sisters said thoughts of this being their last year of collegiate competition haven't really sunk in, though they admitted they will miss playing at that level.
“The atmosphere (is something I'll miss), especially in the rivalry games,” Bethany Smyda said. “It's always fun to play against (rivals). After this, we'll probably go play a summer league or something like that, but it definitely won't be as competitive as these games. That's always fun.”