Talented goaltender Bridget Smith also brings A-game to academics

In this issue’s Spotlight, meet senior chemistry major and women’s hockey goaltender Bridget Smith, an Honors Program student-athlete who has received significant academic recognition as well as leading Division III nationally in saves percentage in the net for the nationally ranked, playoff-bound Lakers (18-6-1 overall and 12-5-1 in the ECAC West, where they are seeded third and hosting a playoff game on Saturday).

Q. Where are you from?
A. A town called Hamburg, about 20 minutes south of Buffalo. I went to a private school in Buffalo called Nichols that had one of the only girls’ teams in the area. Then I played in Toronto for a year after high school. It’s probably the top (juniors-level) league in Ontario province right now.

Q. Why did you choose SUNY Oswego?
A. I came on my visit specifically for hockey. We had gotten about 2 feet of snow the day I was here, and I love the snow. I saw the (Marano Campus Center) rink, and that was a big selling point. I met with some advisers and some teachers and liked what the school had to offer and the small class sizes, so here I went!

Q. How did you become interested in the sciences?
A. I’ve always done better in math and science. I started as a bio major, and when I didn’t like some of the classes they had to offer, I met with my adviser, Casey Raymond, and changed to chemistry. I got into it because I enjoy the math side of it, and I’ve learned a lot. But I think my real interest is in anatomy and physiology and human biology, so I’m most likely going pursue graduate studies in that ... eventually.

Q. What do you think of your professors at SUNY Oswego?
A. It all depends on their teaching style and how you are as a learner. I’ve definitely had some influential and extremely helpful teachers along the way. If there’s a conflict, between class and practice, class comes first—I have a class where I need to hop off the ice early on Tuesday and Thursday. But if we have to miss (classes) for games, I’ve never had a teacher that was anything but accommodating. I always make sure to make up my work or schedule a time to make up a test or any assignments I missed.

Q. How do you balance Honors work with playing an NCAA sport?
A. A lot of time management and a lot of stressing out. (Laughs.) I’m usually always at the rink or doing work of some sort. I’ve been doing research lately with professor Raymond. We’re doing starch conversion in cooked sweet potatoes, comparing quantities and qualities of sugars at different temperatures. It’s for my chemistry capstone and Honors thesis.

Q. Off-ice, what do you think of SUNY Oswego students?
A. I’ve met a lot of great people here. One of my best friends, we met here, and she lives 15 or 20 minutes away from me at home. Small world! Of course, my teammates comprise the majority of my relationships here.

Q. How close of a relationship do you have with your teammates?
A. It’s been a family mentality from the minute we walked on campus. We hear a lot about teams where seniors don’t talk to freshman and things like that, but that’s never been our mentality. From the moment I came here, juniors and seniors were accepting of new players, and I think that makes a huge difference in the motivation of the team and the morale, and what drives the team toward the end of the year. You know you have the support.

Q. What do you think of your coaches?
A. Coach (Andrew) Lazarro is new; he started in January. He’s been nothing but good for us, and I think he’s taken a lot of things off Coach (Diane) Dillon’s shoulders. Coach Dillon has been nothing but a great coach over the past four years. … Her 100th win and (the team’s performance) the past few seasons have shown that she’s a winning coach.

Q. How tall are you? Isn’t it difficult for someone so tall to cover all the low shots?
A. I’m 6-foot. As opponents see it, one of my biggest weaknesses is probably the 5-hole (low between the legs), but at the same time I see my height as an advantage because it’s something you can’t teach ... it’s a natural gift.

Q. Does a goalie need to be in as great shape as skaters on offense or defense?
A. People are fooled. They think goaltender is an easy position and we don’t do much. We had a few girls dress as goaltenders over winter break, and they came off the ice and said, “I don’t know how you guys do it!” I think they gained a new level of respect. It’s a lot of thigh muscle and quick movement, quick feet, good hand-eye coordination.

Q. Did you ever foresee leading Division III in saves percentage?
A. I’ll never forget that the captain my freshman year, Kathryn Sbrocchi, texted me last year and said, “I always thought you were going to be the best goaltender in D-III your senior year.” I read it over and over before this season started. This year is almost a dream come true. I owe a lot to my team for playing well in front of me and helping me get there. It’s been a remarkable season for us so far.

Q. Is a national title the team’s goal?
A. Yes, absolutely! It has been and will be for the rest of Laker history, I believe.

Q. What do you think of the many community service projects our athletes do?
A. It gives us a chance to give back to the community around us. We (especially) love our Big Sister-Little Sister program—the individual relationships we’ve built with our little sisters. We reach out to youth hockey in the area; it’s to inspire girls to stick with ice hockey and to give them something to look forward to, so that they aspire to play college hockey someday. We go bowling. We worked one of their tournaments. They come to see us. It’s a lot of fun. 

Q. I understand you have an interesting trip coming up this summer.
A. It’s called 4K for Cancer. I’ll be biking from Baltimore to San Diego over 70 days. One of my really good friends did it last summer, and watching her journey inspired me to do it and have an opportunity to give back and to do something that people who have cancer might not be able to do. I definitely think it’s going be quite the trip.

Q. What do you plan to do after the bike trip?
A. My Dad said, “Seventy days is a long time, and you’ve got a lot of thinking to do. So you’d better know by the time you get back.” (Laughs.) Definitely coaching eventually, but I want to go to grad school or some type of professional school, I’m just not sure what yet.

Q. What else can you tell us about your family?
A. My relationship with them over the past four years has grown exponentially. I’ve grown closer with my parents and my older brother Tom. They’re at every home game and some away games. My Dad drove up to Plattsburgh on his birthday to watch us play. They sit in the same spot every game and I look for them every game. They’ve been awesome.