Super sub LeeAndra Smith looks to help Amato, Wildcats
Arizona senior midfielder LeeAndra Smith (17) receives a throw from a keeper during practice at Mulcahy Stadium on Tuesday. Smith has adopted a “Super-Sub” type of role this season under head coach Tony Amato.
After her late heroics last week, Arizona soccer senior midfielder LeeAndra Smith might have a new nickname to go by. Just know in advance that the Wildcats’ “Super-Sub” still prefers her actual name.
“I like my name; my name is OK,” Smith said, laughing. “LeeAndra is good.”
Like the nickname or not, Smith seems to fit the role of “Super-Sub” pretty well after her performance against NAU Thursday night in the Wildcats’ home opener at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium. Smith, who is always easy to pick out on the pitch due to the goggles she dons while playing, came off the bench with about eight minutes to go against the Lumberjacks. She gave the Wildcats the late lead when she scored the only goal of the night in the 87th minute.
For the Tucson native, who played her high school ball at Palo Verde High School where she was first team all-city as a sophomore, it was her first goal of the young season and only the second in her career at Arizona.
After scoring a goal her freshman season as a Wildcat in 2011, Smith hasn’t seen as much playing time her last few seasons, including making only two appearances last season under then-new head coach Tony Amato. According to Amato, however, Smith is an important part of the team.
“We love Lee,” Amato said. “She has some strengths, and like every player, has some weaknesses. But she is someone who we always know is going to be ready when we call her number to get out there. She is someone who’ll do anything for us. She is a great teammate.”
Coming off the bench and being expected to contribute is not an easy thing, but Smith said keeping her focus on the sideline is one of the important aspects of being a potential substitute.
“You have to stay mentally involved in the game,” Smith said. “I guess the plus of sitting out that long is you get to watch your opponent and you can see what they’re doing. You get to see what is happening and just observe the game a little more, so that’s one aspect.”
After a bumpy start to the season, which saw the Wildcats split their first road swing of 2014, Smith said the team is getting stronger and is starting to come together.
“I think the team is very good this year,” Smith said. “I feel like we’re growing as a unit and starting to get to know each other a little better. You know, we have so many different personalities we can play, and I think we are starting to get used to that. I think we are going to take off from here and do really well this season.”
This weekend, the Wildcats (2-1-0) will face their toughest test of the early season when they take on Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in Tempe at the Sun Devil Classic.
Despite the tough matchups for Arizona and Amato, they know with confidence they have a senior “Super-Sub” just waiting for her chance to strike.
“If the team needs me to be on the bench supporting them, then I’m on the bench supporting them,” Smith said. “If they need me to come in and play any position, then that’s what I’m here to do. I’m just here to do what coach tells me to do and help the team.”
—Follow Brian Peel @_brianpeel