Junior defender Brenna Smith has logged 667 minutes this year, the highest mark on the team.
Coach Kat Conner relies on Smith, the 5-foot-5-inch defender, to fortify the Bobcats’ backline.
“She can read the body language of the attacker and know when to go inside or outside,” Conner said. “She listens to the game report, and she always finds the break pressure point. It helps her predict what is about to happen, and that’s why I like playing her on the backline.”
Smith, limited with knee, ankle and quadriceps injuries, averaged a career low 77.4 minutes per game last season. Four of Texas State’s 12 losses occurred with Smith sidelined.
“Injuries played a pretty big role,” Smith said. “It was very frustrating, especially mentally. It was hard to see the team working hard and not being able to contribute. I wanted to do things, and I would get hurt again. It was one thing after another. I could not catch a break.”
The Bobcats have outscored the opposition by 20 goals during Smith’s 42-game career, notching a 22-17-3 record. Their record has dipped to 2-4 when she sat out during games.
Smith started 20 games her freshman year, headlining a Bobcats defense that yielded three multiple goal games, tying the program record set in 2008.
“She is very vocal,” said senior defender Ashley Jackson. “Being vocal is a huge thing for defense. She is always going to be there to cover. That’s definitely helped us.”
Though her primary objective is to neutralize the opposition, Smith needs to facilitate the counter attack, Conner said.
“She needs to be a good leader,” Conner said. “She needs to destroy the opponent’s attack and also start our attack. There were games we didn’t pull off (last year), because we did not have her on the backline.”
The San Antonio native nabbed the Defensive MVP award in the Bobcats’ 0-4 loss to Oklahoma. The Sooners tacked on three goals in the final 20 minutes, but Texas State warded off the offensive onslaught for the majority of the game.
“We had a couple breakdowns,” Smith said. “Oklahoma capitalized on small mistakes. The game is never over. We let up after Oklahoma scored the second goal, and it killed our mental state. We need to make sure our mental state is positive.”
Smith said her position on the field, in front of the goalkeeper, allows her to communicate effectively and funnel the ball into the optimal position for her teammates. There are still some mistakes to clean up. Texas State has allowed 10 goals this season, despite outshooting their opponents by 21.
“You have to adapt to certain situations,” Smith said. “When you face adversity, you need to be able to deal with it.”
Prior to her collegiate career, Smith was named the San Antonio Express-News Newcomer of the Year as a high school freshman. Smith captained the 2008 Douglas MacArthur High School club that reached the 5A state semifinals, and she claimed a pair of All-District selections in soccer and academics.
“She’s an unbelievable defender,” Conner said. “She just needs more confidence in herself. She does not see herself as a dynamic player, and she needs to because she’s a big part of our success. I just need to calm her down and get her to keep using her brain. That’s what makes her special.”