Throughout her entire freshman season last year, Jill Smith scored 15 goals total. In the No. 17 Michigan women’s lacrosse team’s home opener against Harvard, the sophomore midfielder netted her 19th goal of the season in the fourth period.
The Wolverines have only played four games.
Michigan started its season against a trio of ranked teams, falling to a 1-2 overall record. The Wolverines took a high scoring win over the Crimson on Sunday, 17-10. In every matchup thus far, Michigan has looked to Smith when a goal is direly needed– and she continued to deliver.
“She’s a spark,” Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen said. “I think when something needs to happen, Jill gets it done.”
And Smith does get it done. In the first four games of the year, Smith has scored four straight hat tricks, including a season-high six goals in the Wolverines season opener. This standout performance during season’s first week earned her Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors and USA Lacrosse Magazine Player of the Week.
Not only is she impacting the game with her own attacks, but she is also facilitating success for her teammates.
“She’s scoring goals, but she’s setting things up for other people,” Nielsen said. “She wants to be that player who sets people and things up. Teams have to start worrying about her and it really does just fire everyone else up when she plays at the level she’s playing at.”
When Michigan’s offense stalls, Smith has proven herself as the attacker to turn to. Against Harvard, the Wolverines got off to a slow start down 3-0 with six minutes left in the first period. After two goals from her teammates, Smith took that momentum and sprinted down the field with it.
With a little over three minutes left in the first period, Smith scored her first goal of the game. A minute later, she scored again. And with 40 seconds left, she finished the hat trick. Smith is consistent in showing that when Michigan needs that spark, she can deliver it.
Her athletic ability doesn’t stop at goal scoring, but extends into every aspect of her game. She won five of the draws against Harvard, and she took one of those draws from the center of the field all the way to the goalkeeper.
Smith credits much of her individual success to her team.
“Our team is very supportive and no matter what anyone does on the field, everyone comes together,” Smith said. “You know everyone is going to support you and be happy for you. It makes it a fun environment to be in.”
That environment is going to be what leads the team and Smith towards its goals of success. The Wolverines 2022 season ended in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Northwestern. Even though that second game ended in a loss, Smith led with four goals and produced two hat tricks in the tournament. That post season was a preview, and now Michigan is getting a ticket to the show.
In addition to her impressive statistics, Smith has quickly stepped into the role of a leader for her team, and continues to pursue achieving performances. Smith at the center of this offense, is going to be a crucial factor of Michigan’s objective.
With just four games into this season, she has proved to be the spark that lights up the field.