The cold rain poured onto the soccer field and the Fife High School boys soccer team trailed White River, 1-0. It was halftime and Mack Smith and Ray Sigala had carried their argument over to the Trojans’ sideline.
Smith yelled at his teammate because Sigala didn’t complete his run. Sigala barked back because Smith didn’t simply pass the ball to his feet.
Neither remember the specifics, only that it was heated — and that it wasn’t the only time Smith had become frustrated with a teammate.
“I think my attitude has changed a lot,” Smith said. “When I was a freshman and sophomore my attitude was just bad. I was just, like, cocky and kind of mean.”
His competitiveness is in part why he’s had so much success — Smith is the reigning Class 2A state player of the year after scoring 28 goals last season — but he said that the past two seasons he’s learned to be a bit more tempered.
Fife coach Tony Crudo said Smith still runs the fastest and shoots the hardest during practice, but he isn’t playing every day like he has something to prove anymore.
“It’s made him a better player,” said Crudo, who played for the Seattle Sounders and the U.S. national team in a World Cup qualifier against Canada in 1982.
“I actually think it makes for a better day out there because he’s not thinking all the time that he has to do it, he has to get it done and he has to give 110 percent every second. He’s giving 105 percent now, it’s just smarter.”
Smith’s competitiveness stems from his family. His father, Brian Smith, is a Fife graduate and former Bellingham wrestling coach. His mom, Rhonda Smith, was a cross country coach at Nooksack Valley.
“One of our family secrets, you can ask any of my kids (J.T., Mack and Sadie), is that we treat every day like it’s a tryout,” said Brian Smith, now the assistant executive director for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. “All our kids show that. You are only as good as you are that day, and I think they all kind of play that way.”
Mack Smith grew up in Bellingham before his dad got his current job with the WIAA. Their family moved to Fife in 2011, and Mack joined the Washington Premier select team and played behind standout Fife forwards Cesar Esquivel and Victor Mansaray, who now plays for the Sounders.
Mack scored eight goals and had eight assists as a freshman that year, and Fife won the 2A state title.
A standard was set.
But the Trojans lost many of their key contributors from that season the following year — including Esquivel and Mansaray — and the Trojans went 9-8-1 and lost their district play-in game.
“My sophomore year was not good. It was just very frustrating,” Mack said. “It’s hard to come back from that, and that’s your standard. We just weren’t there and my feelings and emotions got the best of me.”
Like at White River.
“Sometimes he gets too competitive,” Sigala said. “But at the same time, he’s not being mean. He just wants to win. Some people don’t take it the right way, just like I was too sensitive that day.”
The two talked it over on the bus ride home afterward.
“We hugged it out and we were like, ‘We’ll get it next game,’ ” Mack said. “We came back and won the game, but I just felt like such a jerk.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better and I think it’s just maturing, honestly. And my dad was helping me out. He said I might have been a little cocky those first two years, too.”
Fife returned to the state tournament last season and Smith believes he has a chance to end his senior year like he did his freshman season — as a state champion.
Maybe because the good side of his uber-competitiveness has rubbed off on his teammates.
“We want this,” Mack said. “I’m excited. You see us out there, we don’t want to stop. Crudo says it’s time to go home and we are like, ‘No, we don’t want to go. One more goal.’ We got a good team and I think we are going to go far.”
BOYS SOCCER SEASON PREVIEW
TEAM TO BEAT
Even in the tough 4A Narrows, few teams are expected to keep pace with Gig Harbor. The Tides have 17 seniors who have played with or against each other since middle school, led by Edwin Brown and Jon Brown. Both had more than 10 goals last year, with Ike Northstrom helping set them up with nine goals and 13 assists.
4A Narrows — Gig Harbor. 4A SPSL Northeast — Tahoma. 4A SPSL Northwest — Mt. Rainier. 4A SPSL South — Puyallup. 3A Narrows — Capital. 3A SPSL — Peninsula. 2A SPSL — Fife. 2A Evergreen — Black Hills. 1A Nisqually — Bellevue Christian.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
|F||Edwin Brown||Gig Harbor||senior|
|He can probably play anywhere other than keeper. Elusive senior scored 11 goals last year.|
|Re-broke his left arm in preseason jamboree, but when he’s on the field Lee runs the show.|
|M||Jose Fernando Sanchez||Federal Way||senior|
|Returning 4A SPSL South MVP had 14 goals and nine assists last season.|
|Trojans’ scoring machine and Saint Martin’s commit scored 28 goals last season.|
|D||Connor Thompson||Bellarmine Prep||senior|
|Played for Lions his freshman year before spending past two years with Sounders Academy.|
BEST OF THE REST
4A Narrows: F Jon Brown, Gig Harbor, sr.; F Ian Hesse, Olympia, jr.; M Hunter Hwang, Stadium, sr.; GK Davin Johnson, Olympia, sr.; M Ike Northstrom, Gig Harbor, sr.; F Robert Nurmi, Bellarmine, jr.; M Tanner Stepp, Gig Harbor, sr.
4A SPSL Northeast: M Aidan Gray, Kentwood, sr.; D Ben Ranft, Tahoma, sr.; F Mason Rudolph, Kentwood, so.; M Adam Wilson, Kentridge, sr.; F Logan Wood, Tahoma, sr.
4A SPSL Northwest: M Paul-Andrew McCleary, Jefferson, sr.; Cody Parke, Mount Rainier, jr.
4A SPSL South: CB Bailey Cross, Curtis, jr.; D Connor Herriford, Puyallup, sr.; M Colin Mayes, Rogers, GK; F Brad Macdougall, Puyallup, sr.; Mason Mahoney, Curtis, sr.; F Austin McLellan, Emerald Ridge, jr.; M Blake McMillan, Puyallup, sr.; F Kyle Rivers, Spanaway Lake, jr.
3A Narrows: F Kenneth Bwanika, Wilson, sr.; GK Alek Greenleaf, Wilson, so.; F Tommy Johnson, North Thurston, so.; F Jesus Perez, Foss, sr.; GK Van Soderberg, Capital, sr.; F Nigel El-Sokkary, Capital, sr.
3A SPSL: D/M Ryan Campbell, Peninsula, sr.; M Austin Countryman, Enumclaw, so.; M Adrian Correa, Auburn Riverside, sr.; D Nick Douglas, Bonney Lake, sr.; M Brandon Gonzalez, Auburn Riverside, sr.; Jonah Phillips, Sumner; Duvan Vaca-Trujillo, Auburn Mountainview, jr.; D Ronald Williams, Auburn, sr.
2A SPSL: M Jonny Cano, Franklin Pierce, sr.; M Quinton Taylor, River Ridge, jr.; M Ousmane Sylla, Fife, jr.
2A Evergreen: D Dane Brizzolara, Tumwater, jr.; F Casey Duff, Black Hills, sr.; GK Brock Leeper, Black Hills, sr.
1A Nisqually: Bennett Close, Bellevue Christian, sr.; Joe Eaton, Bellevue Christian, sr.; F Austyn Heit, Vashon, sr.; Nick Iregui, Charles Wright, so.; Trent Siedenburg, Seattle Christian, sr.; Grant Young, Charles Wright, jr.
Others: F/M Carlos Delgado, Eatonville, sr.