Passionate Performer

Nov. 8, 2000

Carly Smolak
Sport: Women's Soccer
Year: Senior
Position: Goalkeeper
Height: 5-10
Hometown: Lake Oswego, OR
High School: Lake Oswego
Major: Earth Systems

The most important quality a coach looks for in an athlete is passion.At Stanford, coaches search for the perfect combination of passion foreducation as well as sport. Some student-athletes allow theirperformance - both on and off the field to speak for their passion.Others cannot not help but exude their passion. After only a fewmoments, one quickly realizes that Carly Smolak falls into the lattercategory.

Smolak, the animated Stanford goalkeeper, is a coach's dream. Out ofhigh school, Smolak was named All-League her sophomore, junior andsenior year. She was the recipient of the President's Education Awardfor Outstanding Academic Achievement. The 1996 All-State Goalkeeper inOregon, she graduated with a 3.8 GPA from Lake Oswego High School. Sheearned the Army Reserve/Scholar Athlete Award and participated in theStudent Senate. Not only was she busy, she was successful. And while shewas studying and playing soccer, she managed to find time to develop alove for backpacking, white-water rafting and mountain biking.

The next step in Smolak's journey brought her to The Farm. ChoosingStanford was easy for Smolak. She says, 'It wasn't too difficult. Thesoccer is great. The school is great. The location is great. Nobodycould ask for anything more. The team is great. It's good around here.'And Smolak has been good for Stanford. In her four years as the Cardinalgoalkeeper, she has started all but three games. She has logged 5990minutes and recorded 229 saves - good for second in Stanford's all-timerecord book. Her 26 shutouts (seven shared) rank her third on the list.Her senior season has been impressive on its own, as she broke personalrecords in saves (95) and shutouts (10). Smolak keeps it all inperspective though. She notes, 'I never paid any attention tostatistics. They are a weird thing for a goalkeeper. The nature of theposition is your response in situations. [Breaking records] is certainlynice. It definitely means something now that I see it happening, but Inever thought about it before.'

Smolak's nature is to be active. Soccer keeps her body moving, but hermind craves exercise too. Academics were equally important in choosingStanford and remain a source of constant enthusiasm. As an Earth Systemsmajor, she encounters many other passionate students, and her respectand admiration for them radiates from her words. She shares, 'I amsurrounded by bright minds everywhere. Everyone has something special -and you get to meet all the crazy people who end up here!'

The long road has brought her to her final chance in the NCAATournament. This is the third consecutive appearance for the Cardinaland Smolak is guardedly confident about the future. Stanford is openingits NCAA bid on its home turf, New Maloney Field, and the anticipationis brewing. Smolak has been in this position before, but she learned thehard way that expectations do not always materialize. She recounts, 'I'mexcited for the home game. We've been [in the tournament] before. Idefinitely learned that your regular season - after the playoffs start -means nothing. It's a clean slate. My sophomore year, we expected more.Last year we expected more. I'm very excited [about this opportunity].'

With all the excitement, Smolak must also come to terms with knowingthat the last game for Stanford in the tournament will also be her lastgame. Added to that is the reality of an upcoming graduation fromcollege. Looking back on her four years at Stanford, she can hardlydecide what she will miss because there is so much she loves about beinga student-athlete. 'I'll miss soccer a lot, that's for sure. [I'll] missall my friends, taking classes with brilliant people. There's a lot tomiss here. I haven't internalized [graduating]. The idea of it isstrange. But it's exciting - that everything is up in the air, thatanything can happen,' she said with a smile.

Wrapping her mind around the end of her collegiate career is almost animpossible task. 'It makes me feel really weird. Since I was six, I wasalways forward-looking. I knew which club I wanted to be in next,' shesaid. 'Then in high school, I knew I wanted to play in college. Aftercollege, it's wide open. I don't know if or where I'll be playing. It'sjust one game at a time. I can't believe it's so close to being over.'

With the end of the season fast approaching, Smolak will be forced toconfront the reality of leaving the Stanford soccer program, but shewill be a legend on The Farm because as she says, '(The favorite part ofmy day) is being outside on a sunny day, running around, playing agame.' Fortunately for her teammates, coaches and fans, her departurewill not be the closing line in her storybook career. She leaves behinda legacy that will resonate beyond next season. Her enthusiasm andpassion will make her statistics even more meaningful.

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