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Alyssa Ortiz-Smith is the 2014 Fauquier Times Wakefield Athlete of the Year

Wednesday, Jul. 23 | By Peter Brewington
Along with excelling as a lacrosse goalie, Alyssa Ortiz-Smith played field hockey and basketball for Wakefield. --Photo By Doug Stroud
Alyssa Ortiz-Smith had no earthly idea how her athletic career would play out when she climbed the steep hill to Wakefield School as a ninth grader in the fall of 2010.

One thing was certain, though: she would play sports.

As a small school, Wakefield needs athletes to fill out its sports rosters, and Ortiz-Smith profiled as an energetic girl who specialized in lacrosse, and was open to being recruited for other teams.

“We liked her. She had a good attitude and was a hard working kid. I had seen her play basketball for St. John’s the Evangelist,” said Wakefield athletic director Paul Sipes.

Fast forward four years and Ortiz-Smith departs Wakefield as a future collegiate athlete, targeted to be a lacrosse goalie at Randolph College, and the obvious choice as Fauquier Times 2014 Wakefield School Girls Athlete of the Year.

Confident, skilled and essential, Ortiz-Smith provided different skills in the three sports she played.

In her strongest sport, lacrosse, she often resembled a human dart board, absorbing shot after shot as a goalie and earning all-Delaney Athletic Conference in the process. In field hockey, she was an all-Delaney Athletic Conference defender who helped hold the fort against stronger programs.

In basketball, well, how do we put it?

Ortiz-Smith readily admits she had the best seat in the house as a sub for the Owls’ state runnerup basketball team. “I was just on the team,” she said, revealing her refreshing modesty .

“What she's done for our teams is phenomenal,” said Megan Evans, who coached her in lacrosse and field hockey.

It started with lacrosse

Ortiz-Smith’s evolution into a college-caliber lacrosse goalkeeper began when she embraced a move to goalie from midfield early in her youth career. “My coach said, ‘Why don’t you try this out?’ I was able to stop balls and it worked out. I was not afraid of being hit (by the ball)," she said.

Her experience at Wakefield echoes that theme as she had some games that looked like one of those epic Washington, D.C.-area thunderstorms.

Shots would rain down on her hard and fast.

“She got shot at a lot. They (rival players) got really close to her,” said Sipes.

“In lacrosse, it’s been a struggle in the win department,” admitted coach Megan Evans, adding, “It’s not because we’re not a good team, The competition is hard.”

“There were days when she probably had dreams of balls flying at her because that was all that was happening,” said Sipes.

Playing for a 3-12 team certainly helped make Ortiz-Smith the experienced netminder she is today, one who takes pride in her craft and takes charge on the field.

During games, she had to be the loudest person in The Plains, yelling to her defenders about where to position themselves.

“I'd say, ‘Ball left. Ball behind. Ball up top.’ That helps when two people need to be on the ball," she said. "Or I’d say ‘Crash,’ when someone comes in to take a shot so that we can try to get a block.

“You have to be talking the entire time. If defense is not there, it affects the entire game,” she said.

At 5-foot-3, Ortiz-Smith was aware of her limitations. “I’m short so a lot of girls try to get high shots on me.”

Still, Evans said Ortiz-Smith’s save percentage was in the high .40s.

“If I made over 15 saves, I was happy with myself,” said Ortiz-Smith of a position that has become a source of pride.

Ortiz-Smith, who lives in Warrenton, plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) for a semester this fall, then begin in January at Randolph College, which competes in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC).

“I had never heard of the school, They contacted my coach and said they were looking for players,” said Ortiz-Smith.

Ortiz-Smith said she’s been told Randolph’s goalie is a rising senior, so Ortiz-Smith is in line to perhaps start early in her career at the NCAA Division III program, where she plans to major in international studies.

A girl for all seasons

Ortiz-Smith took up field hockey as a freshman defender at Wakefield. She did not play her sophomore campaign, but returned her final two seasons and was a starter.

“She has a great center of gravity, you can’t push her around. She’s very stable and powerful,” said Evans.

Evans said Ortiz-Smith “was the type of player willing and able to play any position on the field.”

“My stick skills were terrible, that’s why I didn’t play offense,” she quipped about field hockey.

Despite that comment, she was all-conference.

When it comes to basketball, Ortiz-Smith won't get upset if you don't call her the second coming of Dawn Staley.

“I was just on the team,” she said. “I probably played in maybe five or six games.”

Her season highlight was a made free throw in a regular season game with Randolph-Macon. “I was not expected to go in and I made a foul shot. I think it was the second one. I was so happy,” she said. “(Coach Paul) Sipes was happy. He was surprised when I do something well."

Recalls Sipes, “That was real time…We were making a lot of stupid fouls and I needed her in there."

Sipes said Ortiz-Smith was a solid player, but since she did not play basketball as a sophomore or junior, she was afraid of making mistakes when she went in.

But the coach spoke up in favor of her skill set. "You can make the argument that a bench player on our team is pretty good," he said

And, Ortiz-Smith was part of an incredible thrill ride as the Owls stormed all the way to the VISAA Division 3 state championship game in Charlottesville, which ended in a 32-27 loss to Virginia Episcopal School.

“I thought we were gonna win. It was amazing. We were always so excited. Everyone was crying when we lost. There’s always next year,” she said of the 22-5 team.

In the final analysis, Ortiz-Smith probably deserves a medal for her participation for the Wakefield cause. She wore her red Owls uniform for some of the more challenged sports at Wakefield.

Being an enthusiastic salesperson is actually part of the job description of a Wakefield athlete, Ortiz-Smith said. "It was hard this year for lacrosse and field hockey. We had to recruit a lot of middle schoolers who never picked up a field hockey or lacrosse stick. We talked people into a sport who had no idea what they were doing," she said.

Being a Wakefield athlete got Ortiz-Smith noticed by colleges.

Said Sipes: “She never came to me and said I want to play college lacrosse or field hockey. She just liked the idea of being on a team and winning games. When you’re good enough and they say you should play here, it shows you have a good reputation,” said Sipes.

“She will be a stone wall for Randolph,” Sipes said.

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The Ortiz-Smith File

Family: Mom LaDeana Smith is a comptroller for two government contractors. Brothers Brishen Rojas, 16, and Savion Rojas, 13. Sister Sierra Rojas, 9.

Distinctive hair: She used to straighten her dark brown/black hair but decided to let it go her senior year. "I call it a fro. It's definitely less maintenance. People say they love my hair. A lot of people want to touch it,” she said.

Spanish, or no Spanish?: Despite a Hispanic stepfather, “I do not speak Spanish. I tried. I can have conversation with a child, that’s it.”

Possible career: Foreign Service Officer. “I want to maybe work for one of the U.S. embassies in the Middle East."

Thanks Mom: “It’s important to be in sports at a young age. It helps with self esteem,” said her mother LaDeana Smith, who played softball, soccer and volleyball growing up. “I wasn’t as good as her,” mom said.

Favorite food: "I like Mediterranean food, especially lamb and hummus."

Favorite restaurant: Amoo's in McLean. "It's Persian."

Favorite athlete: "I couldn't name one."

Favorite color: Blue.

Favorite place: Gatlinburg, Tenn. "My family used to go there and rent a cabin. I love the mountains and everything. Tennessee is amazing."

Hobby: "I'd love to learn how to play the piano one day. It's a beautiful instrument. I love anyone that can play the piano."

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