Oct. 13, 2011
Caroline Smith (Soccer, 2002-05)
A native of Edina, Minn., forward Caroline Smith took the soccer field by storm in her four seasons as a Jayhawk from 2002-2005. With school records in points (126), goals (51) and shots (333) during her career, she sits as one of the most dominant and decorated players in school history. Smith returned to Lawrence last month to have her #21 jersey retired, along with two of her past teammates. Since graduating from KU, she has gone on to study medicine at the University of Minnesota, and is currently finishing up her residency at the Truman Medical center in Kansas City. She also continued her playing career on the pitch, having suited up for the Minnesota Lightning of the USL's W-League, where she led her squad to the playoffs for three straight seasons.
Why did you choose to play soccer at KU?
"I was looking all around the Midwest and in November of my senior year of high school, we were at a tournament and my club soccer coach had talked to Mark Francis. My coach told me it would be good fit and I should probably check it out. I ended up going down and visiting two weeks later and I absolutely loved the program, along with the girls and the coach, plus it was not too far from home. Right after I left campus, I knew it (KU) was where I wanted to go."
Did going to KU meet all your expectations from your visit?
"It definitely did. The soccer program was very good and the girls I got to play with were great teammates-we had a very good team for several years. When I was there, I went through pre-med, biology, and psychology. I loved my professors and my classes and I liked the big university feel even though the campus was pretty close together. I am very happy with my choice."
How hard was it being a student-athlete, balancing soccer with academics?
"It was a little difficult but you kind of get used to it. I grew up playing soccer my whole life and I played ice hockey when I was in high school, so I was used to being busy all the time. It was just matter of making sure you prioritize everything. I did a fairly good job although I procrastinated a lot. I found time to get my school work done and then go train."
What was your most memorable moment at Kansas?
"There were probably two. The first being when we won (the Big 12) in 2004. The game that we won to clinch the conference was a home game and it was the first time that we had ever won the Big 12 title. It was a pretty hard-fought game and exciting thing for us.
The other would be when we beat Creighton in the NCAA tournament at home to go on to the second round in 2004. Playing in front of the home crowd and winning was a pretty cool deal."
What was it like playing for the Minnesota Lightning and how was the transition from college to the pros?
"It was a pretty fun thing for me because the coach of the Lightning was actually my club coach from when I played youth soccer, so he just called me up and asked if I wanted to play. I probably knew about half the girls on the team already because they were either girls I played with in high school or I knew from the soccer community in Minnesota. Even though it wasn't quite as intense as the college season was it was a lot of fun to play with really good players. Some of them were still in college but finishing up so it was a good opportunity to play at a higher level."
What have you been up to since leaving the Minnesota Lightning?
"I went to medical school at the University of Minnesota after I graduated from KU. I did that for four years and now I'm back here at Truman Medical Center doing my emergency medicine residency so that keeps me pretty busy. I'm not able to do as much soccer or anything else I want to right now."
You just had your jersey retired at Kansas. What was that experience like?
"That was an awesome experience and I had only found out about it a month earlier. I got my number retired with Meghan (Miller) and Holly (Gault), both whom I played with for a few years. We won our conference in 2004 with both of those girls as well as an NCAA tournament, so it was very cool to get my jersey retired with them. My family came down for the ceremony and all the alumni were there for alumni weekend to share with us, so that was pretty special."
Do you still keep in touch with some of your past coaches or teammates?
"I do keep in touch with a few of my teammates. Emily Strinden and I ran a marathon together two years ago and I still hang out with her although she coaches at Central Missouri, so she is pretty busy. Maggie Mason and I have been going running on the weekends and sometimes we will hangout when I get off work to kind of talk and catch up. Also, Jess Smith and Sarah Gonzalez and I play indoor soccer sometimes. The ones that are still around town I see a fair amount of, the coaches I will see if I go to watch KU play."
How has being a student-athlete prepared you for what you are doing now?
"Sometimes when I am at my shift at the hospital or my shifts get long or frustrating, it might be a little different but it feels like a situation I have been in before so I grind it out and get through it. That's because I have mental toughness from getting through games and training sessions. My soccer experience at KU has also helped me working well in teams. At work you have to interact with a lot of people and balance getting things done, while keeping everybody happy."
What advice would you give to current KU soccer players?
"The biggest thing is just enjoying the experience and putting everything you can on the field. The group that I played with had a great work ethic. Even though the teams now are a bit more talented than we were, we always had a way of grinding it out and working extremely hard to get where we wanted. The talent we went up against was sometimes better but we were a hard-nosed bunch and did what we had to do to get it done. That mentality I believe is what made the group I played with such a successful team."
What are your plans for the future?
"Right now I just want to get done with my residency. I would like to end up back in Minnesota and somehow involved with soccer, probably coaching. It is something I did off and on after high school and I would like to do that again to stay involved as well as mentor some of the young players who are coming up."