George Washington junior Ireland Smith, sitting at 120 career points in three years, helped lead the team to playoffs.
Ireland Smith started out like every other little girl.
She wasn’t interested in sports, she wanted to do the stereotypical things little girls like to do.
“I did it all, dance, cheerleading, gymnastics,” Smith said. “I liked them. I remember I was at dance one day and my dad asked me if I wanted to try basketball. Then I did soccer and softball. That was the end of the girlie stuff.
“I think I would still like cheerleading, that would be fun. That was always fun. But I don’t think I’ll be going back. I like what I’m doing.”
So do her coaches, teammates and everyone associated with athletics at George Washington High School.
Smith is a three-sport star.
During the spring, she was a shortstop on the Eagles softball team until there was a void at pitcher. She filled the void and did so under less than ideal circumstances. The young Eagles lost a lot to graduation the year before, and they moved up to the A Division, meaning they were going against the top teams in the Public League.
During the winter, Smith is the point guard on an Eagles basketball team that advanced to the Public League semifinals a season ago. The pass-first star was still among the top scorers on the team, but her main role was running the offense and keeping the team together.
But this year might be her biggest accomplishment, as she’s helping the Eagles soccer team get back to the playoffs.
Smith, a junior, just finished her third year as a starting midfielder. And she’s been very successful, offensively, throughout her career. She scored 19 goals as a freshman, added nine a year ago and this year she netted 25 goals. Her scoring had the Eagles flying along at 9–4–1 on the year. And in the process, she hit one heck of a milestone.
During the final week of the regular season, she netted her 100th career point. She now sits at 120 career points after a four-goal performance in a 6–0 victory over String Theory. Washington followed that up with a 5–2 victory over Science Leadership Academy. In that one, Smith dished out two assists, and Cassidi Grabov netted a hat trick. The win put the Eagles in second place in the Silver Division and earned them a playoff match against Philadelphia Academy Charter, where the Eagles were eliminated from the postseason after a 6–0 loss.
“I’m not at all worried about my points, it’s fun and all, but I care about us winning and that’s what we’re all excited about,” said Smith, a Somerton resident. “We’ve really come together as a team. I wasn’t sure where we were going to be.
“I remember talking to my dad before the season and I was worried because we lost a lot of good players, and I didn’t know what we were going to do. Then we played Rush in a preseason game and we tied them. They beat us bad last year. Once I saw that, I knew we were going to be OK. And we’ve gotten so much better every game.”
Smith credits her teammates for their success. She says getting Grabov on board was huge. She also points to Alexis and Alyssa Abbott for being key players in the rise of the program.
Smith just tries to be the point guard on the field and get everyone on the same page, a lot like she did in basketball.
“I’ve scored a lot of goals, but I think I’m better at getting everything set up,” Smith said. “I love crossing the ball and seeing if a teammate can score, either with a header or by kicking it. There’s a lot of girls who can score, I just try to get it to them.
“I’m proud of myself and us for winning because I’m proud of the school winning. In basketball a few years ago, nobody knew anything about us. Then we started winning and people got excited. Now we’re doing the same thing in soccer. The more games we win, the better everyone feels.”
Winning is contagious.
Last year, Smith caught the bug when her Eagles won three playoff games. But a lot of her teammates on the soccer team never experienced the joy of competing in the postseason.
The team didn’t qualify for the postseason a year ago and two years ago they were booted from the playoffs by Northeast. This year, the goal was to survive and make it to the postseason. Mission accomplished
“I learned that (making) in the playoffs is the best feeling there is,” Smith said. “It’s great because you see all your hard work pay off. And it’s great because you beat one challenge, then you move on to a tougher challenge. I loved it, and there are a lot of girls on this team, especially the seniors, who deserve to have that feeling. They earned it.”
And Smith hopes she can keep playing soccer for as long as possible.
Sure, she misses basketball. But when winter rolls around, she’ll be ready.
“I love all the sports,” Smith said. “The biggest question everyone asks me is what sport I’m going to play in college and I don’t know. Before this year, it was basketball. But I love soccer now just as much as I love basketball. And softball is a little behind, but close.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do. I would love to do them all.”
And perhaps throw in some cheerleading, gymnastics and dance. ••