Asheville High soccer’s Smith duo powers tie vs. Reynolds

ASHEVILLE – For most of the season, Asheville High girls soccer coach Mike Flowe has avoided playing Gracie Smith and Jesse Smith next to each other.

As two of the Cougars best players, it often seems to be a waste to put the two Smiths (no relation) in the same part of the field.

But Wednesday against Reynolds, Flowe felt he had no choice. Possession would be key in the rivalry game, and containing Rockets star Halle Skibo is at least a two-woman job.

The strategy worked, as Gracie and Jesse Smith controlled play from the center of the field throughout a 1-1 tie with the Rockets, serving as proof of concept for a formation Asheville will likely have to use again in the postseason.

“I think this was our best game of the season,” Jesse Smith said. “We played really physical, and we had a lot of possession. … It wasn’t perfect, but I think we played amazing.”

Jesse Smith, a sophomore, is listed as a defender on the Cougars roster but moves around the field as needed, often being deployed on the wing where she can probe forward. Gracie Smith, a junior, is usually tasked with orchestrating the offense from the back as a defensive midfielder.

Gracie Smith (No. 10) during a game last season.

“Me and her have been friends, we have a connection,” Gracie Smith said. “I love playing with her. She’s physical. We know where we’re gonna go. She always makes the right move.”

Placing the duo alongside one another led to a more methodical approach from the Cougars, but it was effective.

Both Smiths frequently won the ball and had space ahead to dribble into, preventing Reynolds from building play consistently, especially in the first half.

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