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Seattle University riding on Smallidge’s success in net
Bri Smallidge is hardly your average little sister.
Rather than growing up aspiring to have similar athletic prowess as her older brother, Nick, she set a goal of beating him. Never mind that he was bigger, faster and five years older.
But even great desire can lead to futile results in athletic endeavors without talent. For Smallidge, it became apparent that she was an exception.
So much that the 2012 South Kitsap graduate has found success as Seattle University's starting goalkeeper.
“I was always the one that wanted to compete with him in everything,” Smallidge said of her brother, a 2007 South graduate. “I always wanted to play sports with him. I grew up playing baseball and football with him in the yard.”
Fast-forward to high school, when highlight CDs generally require countless hours of methodically selecting an athlete’s best moments. Smallidge could have fit a year’s worth of snapshots from the Wolves’ Sept. 27, 2011, win at Bellarmine Prep, alone.
Perhaps it was the consecutive shots in the 30th and 32nd minutes that were saved off Smallidge’s fingertips. Or maybe it was the diving save off a deflection in the second half.
Those moments can be condensed into one reality: South does not win that match, 2-1, against a perennial league power without Smallidge.
Her coach at the time, Julie Cain, noted that the Wolves were outshot “quite a bit.”
College recruiters took notice.
“I think the first thing that stood out to me was her shot-stopping ability,” SU coach Julie Woodward said. “She’s very explosive and obviously is a tall, but powerful, kid. I think in a goalkeeper, you want a shot stopper and someone who is competitive. I think that sums her up.”
The 5-foot-10 Smallidge became a rare starting freshman goalkeeper last year. She made 18 starts for the Redhawks and allowed an average of 1.18 goals per contest. She also tallied 60 saves as SU finished with a 9-9-2 overall record.
This season has been even better as Smallidge was named the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week earlier this month for the second time this season. Before allowing a goal in Sunday’s 2-1 win against CSU Bakersfield, Smallidge held seven consecutive opponents scoreless. She had last allowed a goal Sept. 20 in a 3-1 victory against Grand Canyon University.
Smallidge is quick to deflect credit for the Redhawks’ success, though.
“I think a lot of people kind of have been crediting me with the shutout streak and I disagree a little bit because the defense has been playing awesome,” she said. “I’ve had a few saves, but for the most part, our center backs and outside backs have been playing really well.”
But Woodward said Smallidge has been key in the wins.
“I always say the best goalkeepers are actually able to win games for teams by making these great saves,” she said. “Bri continues to do that. She’s an amazing shot stopper, she’s really athletic and she’s very confident. I think a lot of our shutouts and success have been because of her.”
Through 15 contests, Smallidge allowed just .95 goals per contest as SU remained undefeated in WAC play. The majority of goals Smallidge has surrendered this season came against Pac-12 schools Washington State and Washington, where the Redhawks were outscored 8-1 combined. Against UW, Smallidge’s former South teammate, Becca Schoales, scored against her.
“I think it’s great for South Kitsap to have all of these awesome players coming out,” Smallidge said. “Becca’s been playing really well and [Seattle Pacific’s Riley Dopps] has had a successful career.”
Now Smallidge said she feels more comfortable as she has adjusted to her new teammates. When she played at South, Cain praised Smallidge’s communication skills with the backline and her ability to refocus after a goal.
Perhaps the ability to quickly adjust relates to Smallidge’s experiences off the pitch. Four years ago, her mother, Ellen, was diagnosed with brain cancer. She now is in remission.
It also helped cultivate Smallidge’s interest in pursuing a career in nursing. She was involved with the award-winning athletic medicine program at South and now is majoring in sports and exercise science. Smallidge also works in SU’s training room and is eyeing a master’s degree in physical therapy.
“When people get hurt, it’s hard to come back from that stuff unless you have someone who knows what they’re doing,” she said. “I think it would be awesome when I get older to help athletes who get hurt come back and be their best.”
Smallidge has two years of eligibility remaining, but figures to remain involved with athletics in some capacity.
“If I were to get the opportunity to coach or play in the future, then that would be awesome,” she said. “But I don’t want to bank on it. I want to get my education, too.”