MUNSTER | As a junior last season, Munster forward Sam Smith endured a painful injury, but the mental anguish of being unable to play was what hurt the most.
Smith broke his right foot being slide-tackled on the first day of practice last season, causing him to sit out all but the last game of the year.
"I really wanted to play the whole season, and junior year is probably the most important year of high school soccer," Smith said. "Just sitting on the sidelines was heartbreaking, because I couldn't really do anything."
Now, Smith is back to 100 percent and has become a mainstay in the Mustangs' offense this season. He's scored 11 goals and recorded 10 assists and has worked well with star forward Zarko Coric, who leads the team with 23 goals and 12 assists.
With Smith out last season, Coric admitted he felt extra pressure from opposing defenses who would constantly key on him. With Smith back this season, defenses can't key on Coric as much, and the Mustangs have become more balanced offensively.
"We changed up some formations, and Sam didn't really miss a beat not playing last year," Coric said. "Teams have to worry about him now, too. It takes pressure off me because they'd have to worry about him."
Munster coach Jim Prasopoulos realizes what having Smith back does for his team. Though Smith and Coric are two entirely different players, having them both on the field at the same time has proven beneficial for the 15-3-1 Mustangs. The two have also developed excellent chemistry as forwards.
"They bring a lot of good things to the game and to practice," Prasopoulos said. "Both of their contributions are very valuable to the team. When you look at your team altogether, you try to evaluate what the strengths are. They work well together on the field."
Including Coric and Smith, seven seniors make up Munster's starting lineup. With that type of experience on the soccer pitch, it's been very easy to play together.
"We've all played together since we were little kids," Smith said. "We all know how each other plays. We can get on each other and tell (each other) what they're doing wrong, and they don't take it as hard."