A kick across the river

Posted on 19 March 2014 by admin

Meramec athlete Jessica Smugala signs with McKendree University

Lady Archer sophomore Jessica Smugala takes a shot on goal during their game against Northeastern Oklahoma College on Sept. 12, 2013. Smugala signed with McKendree University on Feb. 5. | PHOTO: DAVID KLOECKENER

Lady Archer sophomore Jessica Smugala takes a shot on goal during their game against Northeastern Oklahoma College on Sept. 12, 2013. Smugala signed with McKendree University on Feb. 5. | PHOTO: DAVID KLOECKENER

Staff Writer

After two years as a Meramec student and soccer player, Archers’ Team Captain Jessica Smugala will begin a new chapter in her life.

On Feb. 5, 20-year old Smugala signed a letter of intent to attend McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. Smugala was awarded a scholarship and will play for the Lady Bearcats soccer team.

“I focus on school, soccer and work,” Smugala said. “That is what will make me successful in the long run.”

Originally the junior college route was one which Smugala said she wanted to avoid taking. While also working 30 hours a week at Smugala’s Pizza, a family business owned by her uncle, Smugala said that she didnot want to attend community college, but when the soccer coaching staff at STLCC reached out to her, she decided to change her plans.

“When I was told that I wouldn’t have to pay for anything, that is when I decided to come to Meramec,” Smugala said. “Initially I wanted to go to Lindenwood University in Saint Charles.”

Smugala said that initially she was not prepared for the difference between high school soccer and college soccer.

“My freshman year at Meramec, I came in out of shape. I didn’t work out during the summer and I came here to the Archers and was dying,” Smugala said. “That’s when I started pushing myself and the coaches began to notice. I won’t let that happen again. I’m telling myself that at McKendree it is going to be 10 times harder, so it motivates me to push harder.”

According to Smugala, Mckendree sort of happened without planning for it, as the coaching staff at the university had been keeping a scouting report on her.

“The coaches from McKendree reached out to me after attending our game at Nationals,” Smugala said.

Smugala went on to say that she took family into consideration when deciding to accept McKendree’s offer.

“I am very family oriented; my family is very important to me,” Smugala said. “So it was very important that I was no more than two hours away from home, just in case I needed to get back quickly, but at the same time I wanted to get that feeling of independence and being on my own.”

Smugala said how she has a very big family, and that when they get together for a meal, it resembles a spread worthy of Thanksgiving. Her family has greatly influenced her love for the game of soccer.

“I am really close with my Uncle Joe, and have always looked up to him. He played soccer professionally for the Steamers, and is an assistant coach with the Ambush. Looking up to him the way I did played a major role in me becoming a soccer player,” Smugala said. “My dad also loves soccer and he was a major influence on my love for the game as well.”

Smugala also credits her select team coach for building her fundamentals, honing her skills and helping to make her into the player that she is today.

“My select coach, Tim Allen was most influential in teaching me the game and making me the player I am today. He started coaching me in middle school and had me through high school,” Smugala said.

Smugala said that she loves working with a team and pushes her teammates even if she is fatiguing herself. A teammate of Smugala, freshman Sierra Fuchs, said the same thing.

“Jess can be really tired but she still pushes herself and us,” Fuchs said.

Another teammate of Smugala’s, freshman Kaley Bell says how she is impressed by Smugala’s ability to lead along with her friendly nature.

“Jess not only was a good leader who led us to Nationals, she became a great friend to all of us,” Bell said.

Smugala said how she is looking forward to attending McKendree in the fall, and has her priorities mapped out.

“I like being busy. It keeps me focused,” Smugala said.


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