STORY WRITTEN BY JACKSON GROSS, MARQUETTE WIRE - APRIL 12, 2022
Sports have been part of Marquette women’s lacrosse first year attacker/midfielder Elise Smigiel’s life as far back as she can remember.
“I’ve been involved in sports my entire life, whether it was watching my mom compete (or) watching my dad,” Smigiel said. “Every single season I was involved in it was one or two sports, so I am super thankful for having that background because they pushed me everyday to be a better athlete.”
Smigiel grew up in a family of athletes, with her father Jim being a rower at Drexel University, where he would later on place in the 1988 Olympic trials. Her mother, Margaret, was also a rower at Drexel before moving to cycling after graduating from Drexel in 1996.
Even her older brother, Ryan, and younger sister, Lucy, are playing sports as Ryan is a junior on the Drexel rowing team and Lucy is a sophomore in high school looking to one day play college lacrosse.
A native of Flourtown, Pennsylvania, Smigiel said she first found out about lacrosse in part thanks to her mom, who hails from Maryland, where the sport is popular.
“I started playing in first grade and (at first) you play to be with your friends, but I think I really just learned to love (the sport),” Smigiel said. “The pace of the game that I loved, there are power aspects to it but also there is some fitness aspects and I just thought it was the coolest sport ever.”
Smigiel jokingly said that it pains her dad that she didn’t become a rower.
“I just couldn’t step away from lacrosse and the sport I loved and the goal I had set for myself early on to play in college,” Smigiel said. “It’s just something I wouldn’t let go.”
After four years as a varsity starter at Germantown Academy, where she would put up 100 goals in her career, Smigiel committed to Marquette Nov. 11, 2020.
“I had never heard of Marquette until I got a call from coach (Meredith) Black and talked with them and then I came out for a visit my junior year and I just loved it,” Smigiel said. “I loved the Jesuit aspect, I’m a practicing Catholic and I didn’t really realize how big of an impact it would have on myself and my faith life until I got here.”
Smigiel said her faith helped her transition from high school to college in the fall.
“It was just a lot, I was 15 hours away from home, I have no idea what I’m doing in chemistry and were traveling for lacrosse in the fall, all these practices, all the lifts, it was super overwhelming,” Smigiel said. “The only thing that got me through was my faith and just reminding myself that I’m blessed to be here.”
Even with her familly almost 850 miles away, Smigiel said her family is always there for her.
“They’re always available for a phone call or FaceTime, anything. They’ve definitely made it out to a lot of games, a lot more than I expected, which has been so nice even if I just get a hug,” Smigiel said. “It’s all I need to have that reminder that my rock, my foundation is home and that they’ll always be there for me.”
Smigiel’s faith has also allowed her to connect with some of her teammates, like junior attacker Mary Schumar.
“She’s my church buddy, we go to church a lot together, but I always see her there which is exciting and fun and it’s just that, building those connections, just having fun with it,” Schumar said.
After sophomore midfielder Leigh Steiner and junior attacker Hannah Greving went down with season-ending knee injuries against Northwestern Feb. 14, Smigiel was inserted into the starting lineup.
While it was another adjustment that Smigiel had to go through, she has handled it almost seamlessly as she has scored 16 goals in 11 games since then.
Head coach Meredith Black said that while she was proud of how Smigiel has stepped up, she said she wasn’t surprised in her capabilities to do so.
“She sat down in my office for the first time in September and she was just so self-motivated. She’s so competitive, driven and willing to do all the work it takes, really whatever it takes she is willing to do it,” Black said. “She’s so self-aware, knows exactly what she does well (and) exactly what she needs to work on.”
Beyond what Smigiel has been able to do on the field with her play, Schumar said that she has brought a new energy to the offense.
“After she scores she gets really excited and I think that as a freshman that’s such a big deal and it’s so exciting, you’ve worked so hard to get that goal or to get that assist or just help the team to score that goal to bring the ball up,” Schumar said. “I think she brings that light into our offense.”
Smigiel said that with BIG EAST play in full swing in her new role, she is excited to show what she can do on this stage.
“I’m excited to prove to myself that I can make a really big impact on the BIG EAST and against these good teams, against the UConns, the Denvers, all those teams who are ranked,” Smigiel said. “Just prove to myself that I earned my spot and that I’m good enough to be here.”