Thursday June 20, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Hamburg’s Jenna Smolinski holds up the State Cup trophy.
Jenna Smolinski had the time of her life playing for the Blackwatch Premier New York West team for the past three seasons. And now the Hamburg High School senior has got two State Cups and some memorable experiences to show for time well spent with the club.
Blackwatch, which formed its first girls team at the time when Smolinski and company came along for the 2011 season, repeated as NYW State Cup champions earlier this month in dominating fashion, shutting out three straight opponents and outscoring them 14-0.
The team of Western New York all-stars defeated Fairport 4-0, ERUSA Syracuse 5-0 and ERUSA Rochester 5-0. Blackwatch now moves on to the Northeast Regional Tournament later this month in Rhode Island.
“I always thought the key to being a good team was to have good chemistry,” said Smolinski, who will play next year at Fredonia State College. “I’ve been on teams with chemistry before, but no other team has been like Blackwatch. We just all meshed well right away and that made us play super well together. We all get along and have learned each other’s habits.”
One of the senior leaders and captains of a Hamburg girls soccer team that made it as far as the Section VI semifinals this past fall, Smolinski followed that up by helping Blackwatch finish third in the Region One Premier League. Primarily a playmaker from the midfielder and wing positions, Smolinski scored the team’s first goal as a member of the league known as one of the best in the country. Blackwatch would go on to win the 2013 Memorial Day Tournament before the dominant effort at the state competition.
Smolinski credits coach Nick DeMarsh, who also heads the women’s soccer program at Buffalo State College, with helping keep the team grounded and disciplined throughout the season and into it’s latest competition. She said he’s been instrumental in preparing the team mentally and physically for the season and what lies ahead in college and life.
“The worry of coach was that we’d be too nonchalant because we’ve gotten used to winning,” said Smolinski, a four-year varsity player for Hamburg, who played in the Olympic Development Program from 2006-10 and Buffalo United/Empire United from 2004-10. “He said, ‘you never know what’s going to happen.’ So, we knew we needed to be careful with our attitudes and we pulled it together.”
The Blackwatch Premier New York West team repeated as State Cup champions earlier this month.
This is the final season with the program for all but two girls on this team. Each of the high school seniors on the squad will move on to play at the college level. The first year many of them were together, the team finished as a 2011 runner-up in the NYW State Cup competition, before continually getting better and starting to rack up titles while stepping up play with even stiffer competition.
“We all have something different — some are super aggressive, some super skilled — it all just blends really well together,” said Smolinski, who enjoys her role as a two-way playmaker and is also no slouch in the classroom where she is a high honor roll student.
Many of the girls, including Lombardo came over from playing in different programs to try something new. Blackwatch gave them the opportunity to come together as a group of locals and show what this area’s soccer is all about.
“Everybody is really glad to have done this,” said Smolinski, who also garnered All-Western New York and all-divisional first team honors this year, as well as receiving the Director’s Key MVP award from Hamburg High School. “It was a huge move but it paid off and I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing coach. Everyone is so glad that we have this team.”
Also among team members is Hamburg’s Mahya Krouse, who is graduated from Nardin Academy this spring.
DeMarsh wrote in an e-mail that it was impressive how a team comprised almost entirely of local talent has been able to achieve such great heights.
“We have proven to be one of the best teams in the country,” DeMarsh wrote. “The pool of talent right here in Buffalo is big enough and good enough to do special things without having to be split up into multiple teams and drive two hours away for practice.”
Smolinski, the daughter of Candace and Allen, shares the hope of her teammates that the regional tournament is not the end of their playing days together. If they win there, nationals will be net month in Kansas.