On Wednesday, women’s soccer striker Morgan Smiley ’24 became the first Polar Bear to score a goal in four consecutive games since 2013. Since then, she has scored two more goals, bringing her to a team-high total of six goals this season, and she has served as a vital component of the Polar Bears’ 5–1–0 (1–1-0 NESCAC) start. Smiley is eager to face more competition this season with what she believes is the best team she’s played alongside at Bowdoin.
Smiley’s strong performance is especially meaningful, considering that she missed much of last year’s season with an injury. This season, Smiley has already doubled her total number of goals from last year.
“It’s been such a team effort. I think all of my goals have come from really great assists from my teammates,” Smiley said. “It’s really fun to come back and be able to have an impact on the field.”
One of Smiley’s most memorable goals this season was against the University of New England on September 14.
“I was just outside the box. It was a little bit more like an actual shot rather than a cross and finish. It was an assist from [Isa Quintana ’23],” Smiley said.
Smiley’s favorite game of the year, oddly enough, she admitted, was the team’s 2–1 loss to Connecticut College on Saturday.
“I think it was good. We needed some tough competition. We needed someone to keep us in check and get us going again,” Smiley said. “And [Connecticut College] was really fun to play. Even though we lost, we learned a lot from it.”
This season is also the first in Smiley’s collegiate career that feels relatively normal. Her first year season was canceled because of Covid-19, and even during her sophomore year last year, the team still felt the pandemic’s impact.
“Sophomore year was hard because we came in three different teams. We were separated because of [Covid] and we were trying to figure each other out,” Smiley said. “This year, we made an effort to communicate a lot over the summer and really put in the work. I think it shows how much everybody has dedicated their time to the team.”
Even before coming to Bowdoin, Smiley dedicated much of her time to soccer—the sport has been a part of her life for almost as long as she can remember.
“I have probably played since I was five or six years old,” Smiley said. “I actually hated anything athletic when I was really young. I was not oriented towards sports at all, but then a friend randomly was like, ‘Morgan, we’re playing in a soccer league,’ and that was it.”
Growing up, Smiley was most influenced by her coaches. She still helps out some of her former coaches’ current teams when she goes home to Charlotte, N.C.
“Coaching has a huge impact,” Smiley said. “It can make or break the game for you. I’ve been very fortunate to have very good coaches that I still talk to today.”
Though Smiley thought she wanted to play collegiate soccer, her first priority was finding a school that fit academically. She walked onto the Bowdoin soccer team her first year.
“I was in contact [with the coaches] before, but I got [into Bowdoin] regular decision, and then I reached out to [Head Coach Brianne Smithson] and was like, ‘hey, can I join the team?’ She said that I would have to try out. I tried out, and here I am,” Smiley said.
Since joining the team, Smiley has most enjoyed the time she’s spent with her teammates and the team atmosphere.
“It’s another thing that can make or break the sport,” Smiley said. “It’s been nothing but great here, especially this year. We have really great team chemistry and team bonding going on. It’s the best I’ve seen.”
The team won its first four games of the season, and it split its two games against NESCAC opponents. Looking forward, Smiley is ready to see more conference play.
“I think [I’m most excited about] seeing how the team comes together. We’ve been super positive, but we also haven’t had a lot of adversity except for Connecticut College,” Smiley said. “It’ll be nice to see how we respond as we have some harder games.”
The women’s soccer team will take on Middlebury College (4-1-0; 1-1-0 NESCAC) this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Pickard Field.