NA’s Smith collects 100th goal of career in win against Wood-Ridge

When Savannah Smith entered North Arlington High School a little more than three years ago, she had no idea what the future held for her.

That especially included not reaching a milestone like scoring 100 goals for her career.

“I never expected to reach this,” Smith said after scoring two goals last Thursday in a 4-0 win over Wood-Ridge, giving her 100 goals for her career. “I think last year, I set myself up for the 100, but I didn’t think it would happen. I know not a lot of people have done it, so my hard work has paid off. I’m real proud of myself.”

Smith became the first soccer player from North Arlington, boy or girl, to reach the coveted 100-goal plateau.

Two years ago, Zoe Steck of Nutley scored her 100th goal before heading on to play at UConn. But it’s definitely rarified air that Smith joined last week.

What makes Smith’s accomplishment even more remarkable is that she reached the milestone despite missing most of her sophomore year with a torn ACL in her knee.

“After I hurt my knee, it set me back a little,” Smith said. “Even though I missed some games, it really pushed me to come back.”

North Arlington head girls’ soccer coach Dan Farinola knew that Smith was a special talent.

“The first time she stepped on the field, she played with Joanna Seca (currently playing midfield for Drexel),” Farinola said. “Savannah shined right away.”

Savannah was always one of the fastest players around. No one could ever deny her speed.

Smith scored 18 goals as a freshman playing with Seca. She scored 16 as a sophomore before hurting the knee.

“She was on pace for a very good season,” Farinola said. “Then she tore her ACL.”

Smith worked diligently in rehabilitating the knee to be able to return to 100 percent health-wise for her junior season.

“I didn’t know if I’d get back,” Smith said. “I worked hard in physical therapy and I think that made me stronger.”

Smith didn’t know how she would react after hurting the knee.

“At first, I thought it would make me more hesitant,” Smith said. “But it actually helped, because I started using my left leg more because I couldn’t use my right. I became good with both feet.”

“I think she was a little tentative,” Farinola said. “But it made her place an emphasis on her left foot. I think she always had a pretty good shot with her right foot, but the injury made her concentrate a little on the left. We didn’t have to treat her with kid gloves. She made me play her every minute and never worry.”

Now, almost two full years later, the knee is not an issue.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Smith said. “I really think it’s made me a better player actually.”

Smith said that she kept a mental countdown of how close she was to the milestone.

“I was actually getting pretty excited that I was so close,” Smith said. “It actually came quicker than I expected. But after I had the hat trick against Hasbrouck Heights (last Monday), I knew I was close.”
Smith reached the milestone by scoring twice in the first half last week against Wood-Ridge.

“She’s scored in every single game this year,” Farinola said. “I’m really impressed with that. It shows her consistency. And every goal she’s scored has been a meaningful goal. She expects to be a factor in every game.”

Farinola loves what Smith does when she’s not scoring goal after goal.

“She’s become a great teammate and a great leader,” Farinola said. “She’s even a good player when she doesn’t have the ball. She’s a confident kid, very outgoing. She has that quiet confidence you like in a player. She’s a leader and one of our captains. She’s just as quick to pass the ball as she is to shoot. She also does all the stuff that people don’t see, so she’s a lead-by-example type.”

Farinola paused to reflect on the enormity of the accomplishment.

“It’s really impressive,” Farinola said. “I never had a kid come close to it before. It shows the effort it takes. It’s impressive to see what she’s done to come back.”

Smith said that she still has four games remaining to pursue her own record of 36 goals in a season. She now has 29.

Smith has a few college offers to mull over after the season. Schools like Georgian Court, Caldwell, Bloomfield, Kean and St. Peter’s are in the running for her services. She would like to study psychology in college and perhaps become a child psychologist after she earns her degree.

Smith said that she realized how important of a milestone the 100th goal was when she started to receive congratulations from all over the soccer world.

“I realized that not a lot of people can get where I am,” Smith said. “I realize how big of an accomplishment it is. It’s a pretty wild feeling.”

“It’s been incredible to coach her, it really has,” Farinola said. “She always showed potential, then she had the injury, then she had to come back. She’s scored in every game. It’s all been incredible. She comes from a great family. She’s someone we’re all going to look at and marvel at what she’s been able to do.”




Savannah Smith (center) is congratulated by her North Arlington High School girls’ soccer teammates and friends after Smith scored the 100th goal of her career last week in a 4-0 win over Wood-Ridge. Photo courtesy of Dan Farinola


North Arlington senior Savannah Smith holds the ball that she scored her 100th career goal with last week. Photo courtesy of Dan Farinola



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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”