Oct. 16, 2013
As Michigan's inserter on its corner unit and go-to penalty-stroke expert, senior/junior Leslie Smith ranks among the Wolverines' leading scorers with six goals and nine assists on the season. The Wolverine back has contributed to three shutout performances this season, including a 2-0 decision in U-M's most-recent outing vs. Central Michigan (Oct. 13). On the heels of fall break and with a rivalry match against Ohio State looming, Smith took some time to discuss the time off, the Wolverines' mentality and ongoing tinkering with corner execution and positioning.
Q: How was fall break?
A: We've been in the grind -- school and practice every day. So, it was nice to have a mental break from school. I think everyone feels well rested. Mackenzie [Ellis] and I went and looked at puppies at the humane society, so that was really fun to just do something outside of both school and hockey. I have two midterms coming up, so I still spent a good part of it studying. But having a couple days off a school helps everyone feel just a little less frazzled.
Q: What's the team's focus going into practice this week?
A: We're taking it one step at a time. I think when you look too much into the future, that's when you start to falter. I think we're doing a good job of looking at it game by game, practice by practice and step by step. We're excited for this weekend. It's nice that we only have the one game, and it's a big game. Ohio State is always a big game. So, we're able to just focus on that for this weekend.
Q: Penalty-corner execution is always a big focus, and Marcia [Pankratz] commented after Sunday's game that it'll be a point of emphasis this week. How do you tighten it up a little bit?
A: We practice them every day. We hadn't been practicing with defense, but the coaches made the decision that we'll begin to add defense. I think that will be a big help. Sometimes, in practice without defense, you can get the second or third rebound that might not be there in a real game. We'll just keep doing rep after rep.
Q: You've scored several stroke goals this season. Do you like that pressure situation?
A: I do. I love it. I love overtime. I love the pressure situation, and I don't mind being put into it. I think a lot of it stems back to my high school coach. He just instilled so much confidence into not just me but a lot of my teammates who went onto DI schools.
Q: We made some position switches in our last game, moving you up to midfield. Do you like being there?
A: Yes, because I do like to be more attacking. I think it worked pretty well. It was in an effort to help some of our outletting. After watching the film, we can see what worked best and go from there. It's fluid. We have just good diversity on this team. Sammy [Gray] and I are interchangeable; same with Caroline [Chromik] and Lauren Thomas. Against Central, we did a lot of substituting to keep everyone's legs fresh, so we're fortunate to have that depth on our bench.
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