You don’t have to be a lip reader to know Meghan Smith hates to lose or make mistakes.
Smith isn’t shy about showing her frustration. But according to Rick Kuehlwein, head coach of the Brainerd Warriors volleyball team, she’s earned the right to make a mistake or two.
Smith did everything she could to help the Warriors to a 1-1 record last week and a 17-8-1 record heading into a Tuesday, Oct. 12, match-up against Bemidji.
In Brainerd's 3-0 win over the Sauk Rapids Storm Oct. 7, Smith registered five ace serves, 12 kills, six digs and two blocks.
“She’s so important because first off she’s very competitive,” Kuehlwein said. “She hates making mistakes, but I keep on encouraging her to hit from everywhere — back row, front row. That doesn’t always help your stats because it’s not always easy to hit out of the back row, but she understands that role and she does it. She kind of leads by example. You’ll find that she’s a tough kid. When she makes a mistake she knows it. She has this gruffness about her that makes her tough and competitive. I really like that about Meghan.”
In the Warriors 3-0 loss to Sartell Oct. 5, Smith recorded 11 kills, four digs, three blocks and an ace serve.
“I’m honestly, just really competitive and I’m always just pushing myself to do the best,” Smith said. “I want everyone on the team to do their best and when we aren’t playing to our full potential that’s when I get frustrated. I think our team has gotten a lot better at not thinking down when we’re playing low. It’s really fun playing with everyone.”
On the attack this season, the senior outside hitter leads the Warriors with 212 kills. She’s averaging 2.7 per set with a 32.2% kill rate.
“I’ve gotten a lot more playing time in the front row than in years past,” Smith said. “Before I just basically played in the back row. But it hasn’t been that much of an adjustment. We get so many reps during our Junior Olympic season. Playing all the way around hasn’t been that much of a change.
“I just try to play smart because you’re not going to get a huge swing every time you go up there. You have to read the court and read the situation.”
Smith is serving at a 90% clip with a team-high 34 ace serves.
“She had five aces last Thursday alone,” Kuehlwein said. “I was calling serves in tournaments these past couple of weeks and there are six zones on the court and I had her serving to the two and three zones. That’s just over the net and she made every single one of those and a lot of times they were aces because the kids couldn’t return them. She’s got the ability to move the ball around. She can focus on the player instead of the player and that’s what makes her a special player.”
Despite being just 5-foot-8, Smith does her part on Brainerd’s block as she has 37 total blocks with 11 solo blocks.
“She’s extremely athletic, and if you watch her, she’s 5-8, but when she has to get up and make a sweeping block or a big jump she has quick leaping ability, too,” Kuehlwein said. “She’s just a good all-around athlete.”
Where the three-year varsity vet shines, however, is on defense. Smith is second on the team with 201 digs. She’s corralled 320 serves with just 28 errors.
“She reads really well so she knows where the ball should be,” Kuehlwein said. “She’s in the right spot more often than not. She could be a libero at the next level. Don’t get me wrong, she can hit it, but her real ability is in defense. She’s a good passer. If you go on a 3.0 scale, she’s probably a 2.7 passer, which puts her at an elite level.”
Smith said her defensive mindset is to not play scared and always be flying around.
"She has this gruffness about her that makes her tough and competitive. I really like that about Meghan.."
— Rick, Kuehlwein
During last year’s COVID-19 shortened season, Smith finished with 21 kills, 125 digs, 1 block and nine ace serves on 94% serving.
As a sophomore, Smith recorded 10 kills, 59 digs and three blocks.
Smith has not only progressed each year on the volleyball court, but she’ll be a returning starter on both the basketball and softball teams.
“She takes on every role and she accepts it,” Kuehlwein said. “She never complains -- ever. She’s a tough kid. She’s the first one at practice every single day. She’s always one of the last to get done.”
Said Smith: “I really like being busy so I like it more where I’m going from one practice to the next, to school to work to wherever I’m going. I try and throw everything I can into a day and try to get it all done.”
Kuehlwein said Smith’s best athletic years are still to come. Smith isn’t sure in which sport that will happen. She’s looking at colleges for both volleyball and softball, but as her 3.8 grade-point average would suggest, she’s also focused on her academics.
‘I don’t really know what my plan is right now,” Smith said. “I’ve been looking at a few schools for volleyball, but mainly for softball. I’m really open to playing volleyball in college just based on how this season has gone. I really think playing at the next level could be in my future.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Emma Balsley, girls soccer, tallied a goal and an assist against St. Cloud Tech.
Nick Holmberg, boys soccer, tallied a goal and an assist against Sauk Rapids.
Thomas Ruhl, cross-country, finished second with a 17:33.8 at the Crosby-Ironton Ranger Invite.
Gabby Eckman, girls soccer, tallied two goals in a win over Sartell.
Taylor Ruhl, girls tennis, won both of her No. 2 singles matches in Section 7-2A playoffs.
Catherine Moraghan, girls tennis, won both of her No. 3 singles matches in the Section 7-2A playoffs.
Lindsy Busch-Ericah Folden, girls tennis, won both of their No. 2 doubles matches in the Section 7-2A playoffs.
Avery Anakkala-Claire Erdahl, girls tennis, won both of their No. 2 doubles matches in the Section 7-2A playoffs.
Meghan Smith, volleyball, finished the week with 23 kills, 10 digs, six ace serves and five blocks.
Position: Outside hitter
Career highlight: Beating Moorhead in volleyball last fall or in basketball last winter on her game-winning shot
Other sports: Basketball, softball
Grade-point average: 3.814
Favorite class: Human biology
Favorite food: Mac and cheese
Favorite movie: “Greater”
Favorite TV show: “Bachelor in Paradise”
Favorite website or app: TikTok
Favorite restaurant: Boulder Tap House
Future plans: Still deciding on a college, but hopes to major in pre-chiropractic and minor in chemistry.
Favorite athlete: Sis Bates, softball player for Washington Huskies
Parents: Alisha and Josh Smith