Seneca Valley's Smith used to making big saves
After losing and tying its first two contests of the season, the Seneca Valley Raiders boys soccer team reeled off 10 wins in a row and was looking to extend that streak late last week.
Although players and coaches alike credit a total team effort, a certain amount of credit lies with senior goalie Colton Smith.
“Colton has been great the past two years,” Seneca Valley coach George Williams said. “He is a tremendous competitor and comes up big with some great saves. He makes the saves you need him to make to keep you in games.”
Smith expected the young team to play well, but going 9-0 through the first nine section games was a bit of a surprise only because of the difficulty of the section.
“We are really together in the midfield,” Smith said. “It is important for us to stay organized on defense. Our communication could be a little better, but I do my best to keep the guys talking and have all of us stay focused.”
The focus has been there with shutouts over good teams such as North Allegheny and Hampton and allowing only four goals during the streak.
“That shutout over North Allegheny was big. … I had a few big saves late in that game to preserve the win,” Smith said.
Smith actually began his soccer career as a forward, but made the move to goal at the age of 12, and he has been stopping shots ever since.
The Raiders defense is a veteran group, but Smith admitted that he actually likes to see some shots as opposed to sitting tight for 30 or 40 minutes at stretches.
“I think it helps me play when I see some action; it helps me play better,” he said.
The key to being a good goalie, according to Smith, is the ability to have a short memory. Goals will go in, but the key is not to let a score linger on his mind and let things snowball. Smith said it hurts the team for a goalie to lament on a missed save.
“As a goalie, you are the last line of defense, and everyone is counting on you,” Smith said. “A mistake can be magnified, so you have to stay focused.”
Mental toughness is a must, but being athletically gifted helps a great deal.
Smith is a player who said his strength is his ability to move laterally, make diving saves and using his athleticism to make plays high or low in the net.
“He does the basics so well,” Williams said. “He seems to be in the right place at the right time. ... He is good at stopping low shots and has a knack of making the save when we need it the most.”
Of all the lessons Smith has taken from Williams, the one that personifies the Raiders mantra is to take each opponent as if it is the best team in the league.
To get ready for each game, a good meal is a must for the senior keeper as is a good warm-up.
“I have the forwards work with me to get me ready,” Smith said. “I need a good warm-up. I can't go out there cold.”
Although he has some options to play soccer in college, Smith said he is unsure about whether he will take one of them. He plans to study physical therapy, which will take seven years, but he has that factored into the plan.
“I have to decide soon,” he said. “But, I will miss the rivalries against North Allegheny and Pine-Richland. I play club soccer, too, but I like representing my school.”
Jerry Clark is a sports writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.