By Greg Mattura – Record Sports Department
NORTH ARLINGTON – Three girls soccer games, three victories for North Arlington, and nine goals for Savannah Smith.
Smith has started her junior year on a scoring spree, one year after her promising sophomore season was cut short by a torn right ACL.
“I’m glad that I recovered well,” Smith said Tuesday afternoon. “And I’m ready to do well this season.”
“You can’t even tell,” Vikings coach Dan Farinola said of Smith’s injury. “She looks better than ever.”
Smith opened the season by scoring four goals in a 6-4 victory over Harrison. She registered her second consecutive hat trick with three goals in a 4-1 win over Immaculate Conception. She scored twice in the opening 15 minutes of Monday’s 10-1 win against Weehawken and sat out the rest of the game.
Smith has benefited from a shift from midfield to forward, a position she plays in club soccer. There are more scoring chances, and less end-to-end running.
“It’s better. It’s easier for me,” said Smith, who estimates it took seven months for her to recover from the injury. “My knee doesn’t really hurt at all, either.”
Smith has 43 career goals with almost two full seasons left to play. As a freshmen, she totaled 18 goals and 14 assists. Last season, in just a dozen games, she had 16 goals, as well as four assists, while playing central midfield. She earned NJIC first-team all-Meadowlands Division both seasons.
“She can shoot with both legs, she’s fast with the ball on her feet, a really talented player,” Farinola said, adding, “She’s aggressive and can beat most defenders off the dribble.”
Smith was on pace last season to finish among North Jersey’s leading scorers before suffering her injury in mid-October. She injured her anterior cruciate ligament shortly after registering her 16th goal during a 5-0 victory over Garfield in the inaugural NJIC Tournament.
“It was hard, because I had to watch my team and I wasn’t able to play,” said Smith, whose father, Eddie, played soccer for powerhouse Kearny. “So it was tough.”
North Arlington wasn’t the same team following Smith’s Oct. 15 departure. The young Vikings were 8-2-2 with Smith in the lineup. They finished 11-8-2, including a 1-0 loss in the NJIC Tournament to eventual champion Hasbrouck Heights.
“It took a while to get used to playing without her,” Farinola said. “It definitely hit us last year when she went out.”
It’s helping North Arlington that Smith is back in. Her goal-scoring gives the Vikings a much better chance to vie for the title in a very competitive Meadowlands Division after they finished fifth last season.
“It was a long recovery time,” Smith said. “I was scared I wasn’t going to get back to normal, but I did.”