NCAA player returns home to Gee-Gees team of familiar faces

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Miranda Smith and Vanessa El-Asmar. Photo: Charlie Pinkerton.

By Charlie Pinkerton

As their regular season reaches its end, members of the University of Ottawa women’s soccer team have their sights set on nationals.

But for one Gee-Gees player, this season has meant more than the team’s 10-1-4 record, it’s been about regaining her love for the sport.

Miranda Smith is playing her first season with the Gee-Gees. This last three years she spent as a member of the University of Memphis’ women’s soccer team.

“Being there made it feel like I didn’t love soccer anymore,” the St. Matthew High School graduate said of her National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 experience.

Before going to the United States on a scholarship to play the sport, she was one of the brightest young soccer stars in the city. In October 2013, the year before she went down south to play soccer, she had been a part of, an FC Capital United U17 girls team that had done what no Ottawa team had done before; the undefeated Ontario Youth Soccer League team (10-0-4) won a league division title and played in the championship final.

At Memphis, discouraging coaching staff were detrimental to her confidence and what she had enjoyed about the game had been lost.

“I figured that I had worked my whole life to go away to school and get a (soccer) scholarship and that was supposed to be the reward for everything that I did and I want to enjoy it.,” Smith added. “With these possibly being the last few years of my soccer career I didn’t want to end soccer hating it.”

After last season with the Memphis Tigers, she chose to return to her home-town of Ottawa to play for Gee-Gees coach Steve Johnson, who she’s known since before she was a teenager.

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Miranda Smith carries the ball for the Gee-Gees. Photo: Greg Mason.

“Coming back really made me love soccer again,” Smith said, adding that she’s regained her confidence as well.

“It’s nice to be back and play with old teammates,” Smith noted.

One of those familiar faces is her former FC Capital United teammate and fifth-year Gee-Gee Vanessa El-Asmar. Smith and El-Asmar had played together in the season before the team’s historic 2013 year.

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Vanessa El-Asmar handles the ball for the Gee-Gees. Photo: Ellen Bond.

Now the pair both anchor the University of Ottawa’s midfield unit. El-Asmar insisted that playing with Smith again has been easy.

“Right away we clicked really well,” El-Asmar said. “Automatically me and her were the first ones to grow close when she came.”

“It’s nice to have a familiar face,” Smith said. “She was very welcoming with me and even that helps on the field.”

The Ottawa Gee-Gees play their final game of the regular season at home against the Carleton Ravens on Oct. 22. They beat the Ravens earlier this season at Carleton by a score of 2-1. Smith had an assist in that game. The team is in second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) east division and will be awarded with a bye in the first round of the OUA playoffs with a win.

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