“The idea is that you should love what you do,” Belle Smith said. “When you love the game and love the people you surround yourself with, it creates an atmosphere for accomplishing great things.”
For the 17-year-old Westhampton Beach rising senior, she’s done that and more. Even as one of the youngest on Team USA, the midfielder powered her way to 19 goals and five assists across the World Lacrosse Women’s U19 tournament to help the U.S. reclaim the championship title August 10. The girls capped off their remarkable run with a 13-3 win over Canada.
“We knew we could accomplish great things if we put our minds to it,” Smith said. “You become so engrossed in the game that you will yourself to win, and our will to win is what I believe set us apart from any other team. We knew USA was strong, we were confident, but we prepared to compete every game. You have to when you’re playing against the best in the world.”
Her team retrieved gold after a string of four straight world championships ended with a loss to Canada in the world championship game in 2015, the last U19 tournament held in Scotland. Smith — fourth in points for USA and first among midfielders — scored once in the finals, had four goals and two assists in a 21-6 semifinal win over Australia, and a hat trick in a 26-0 blanking of Wales in the quarterfinals. An eight-goal differential was the closest any opponent came to Team USA.
“I’m just really proud of the team,” said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, who runs the women’s lacrosse program at Northwestern University. “I think we worked pretty hard this week.”
Smith had dreamed of tossing the USA women’s lacrosse jersey over her shoulder for years — looking around her bedroom, walls covered with photos of those who’ve inspired her along the way, along with trophies, awards, and medals from previous competitions. But even with the hype she’s created around her name, the Westhampton star took her USA lacrosse team’s “stay humble and hungry” motto personally.
Even through being a four-time All-County selection, three-time Player of the Year for Westhampton; an Under Armour Underclass Tournament champion, helping lift Long Island to national bragging rights in the Command and Highlight divisions in 2017 and 2018; garnering two U.S. Lacrosse All-America nods; and being named top midfielder in her class by Inside Lacrosse and the organization’s No. 2 overall 2020 recruit, she’s always looking for room to grow.
“I told myself from the beginning to just play my game — to show myself and to show others that age isn’t a factor —and have fun doing it,” Smith said. “It was super cool for me having teammates that are the top college athletes who I’ve looked up to and have been inspired by. To play alongside them and be part of a family with girls that are my role models has made me grow as a person and player.”
She said while the team scouted its opponents, more importantly, the girls scouted themselves. Smith personally worked on her two-man game from the elbow — where hiding from the defender in a high-low pattern and setting a pick creates confusion and an open lane to the goal. She and her other top goal-scoring teammates Izzy Scane and Caitlyn Wurzburger were most successful with this. It worked especially well in the 21-6 semifinal win over Australia, where the trio combined for 14 goals.
She created new relationships with the 110 of a pool of 500 applicants from across the country that were invited to take part in a 10-month tryout process, which included continuous cuts until the final roster of 18 was released June 17, and she ended up bringing some along with her. Recent Eastport-South Manor graduate Kasey Choma, a midfielder and one of Smith’s best friends, also made the team.
“First of all, Belle is such an amazing athlete. She is so athletic, and every move she makes on the field, she’s always going full speed and giving 100 percent,” Choma said of the three-sport standout, who is also on the school’s volleyball and basketball teams. “She’s also an amazing teammate. She will always have your back and you can always count on her to finish.”
She said Smith’s consistency is key. “She is someone that can put up big numbers every game,” Choma said. “And she’s a natural leader. If you didn’t know her, you would never believe she is one of the youngest girls on the team.”
Smith’s mother Jen saw it, too. “She was a light,” she said of her daughter. “She consistently rises to the occasion.”
Competing in the tournament was special to the close friends, not only for getting the opportunity to play together, but being able to spread the game of lacrosse around the globe. Jen Smith was also caught up in the beauty of it.
“It was pretty magical,” she said. “Twenty-two countries there, each beaming with pride for where they come from, so invested in who they are. Then along comes USA. It was emotional, electric, and patriotic. Hard to put into words really, but very special.”
Belle Smith said she’s appreciative of the support from family, friends, and the community.
“I’m so overly filled with gratitude. Their love throughout this entire journey was incredible, and reminded me why I love where I live,” Smith said. “I don’t have the proper words to explain the uniqueness of what my teammates and I experienced — maybe we can come up with a new word for it, because there really are no words to describe it. It was such a privilege being around such amazing people, and athletes, and there’s no better feeling than playing alongside them with ‘USA’ written across your chest. It’s something we’ll all remember and value for the rest of our lives.”