photos by Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Norwood’s Kacie Smith, 17, says her mother motivates her to play hard, even when she is not in the stands.
By Jacob Feldman
February 27, 2014
Kacie Smith’s pre-game routine is simple and consistent. After the Norwood High girls’ hockey team wraps up its warmup, she turns to the stands and looks for her mom, hoping to share a smile.
“She just motivates me and makes me really want to play hard,” said the junior wing.
A couple times recently though, her mother wasn’t in the crowd. Karen Smith tries to make it to as many games as she can, but her current chemotherapy has made it more difficult. She was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.
Kacie was hoping that her mother could watch the Mustangs take on Newton North Jan. 29, but Karen was not feeling well enough. Kacie responded, accounting for all four of her team’s goals with two assists and two tallies in a 4-4 tie with the Division 1 foe.
When she got home, the 17-year-old told her mom about her performance.
“It was hard because she always comes to my games and I like to see her in the stands, but I knew coming home and telling her would make her happy,” said Kacie. “She’s proud of me.”
Despite her recent absences at the rink, Karen still finds time to smile with her daughter. Dan Smith said Kacie and his wife are always goofing around, often taking “selfies” with each other. They talk for hours when Karen does not feel good.
“Her and her mother are best friends,” Dan said. “I can’t believe how much my wife laughs with Kacie, knowing what she goes through.”
Kacie has also been able to keep up her play on the ice.
She entered Tuesday’s Division 2 preliminary round matchup against Latin Academy with a team-high 32 goals and 46 points after leading the Mustangs to an 11-6-3 mark in the regular season, and she added 3 more goals in a 6-0 win, extending the season. Norwood netted 92 goals during the year, 18 more than any other team in the Bay State Conference’s Herget Division.
Smith is just 5 feet 3 but uses her speed to generate scoring chances. Support from her team has helped, too.
Every player now wears pink skate laces to match the ones Kacie has worn since last year.
“We are a really close team,” Kacie said. “I know any of them will be here for me no matter what. We are always laughing — they keep me happy.”
Norwood High coach Tim Coskren has helped support the family, whom he’s known since he coached Kacie’s older brother, Ryan , in youth leagues going back 15 years.
Assistant coach Molly Barefoot has also been there for Kacie. Dan and Karen Smith reached out to the assistant, who is also Kacie’s guidance counselor at Norwood, two years ago to keep an eye on their daughter and make sure she was handling the diagnosis appropriately.
Since then, Barefoot and Kacie have grown close.
“Kacie looks up to her like a second mother,” said her father. “Molly understands the whole situation.”
Other parents have chipped in as well.
“The little things go a long way,” added Dan Smith. “The laces, the rides, the phone calls, people driving by on the street stopping and chatting out front — it’s overwhelming.
“People are amazing.”
He added that his daughter, who also plays field hockey and lacrosse for Norwood, has benefited from the competition itself.
“It gives her something to focus on,” he said. “It’s an outlet for her, having fun with her friends.”
Last Tuesday, Kacie had all three of the Mustangs’ goals against Falmouth, though it was not enough in a 4-3 loss in the Cape Cod Classic. Norwood finished its regular season with a 4-4 tie against Barnstable in its second Classic game last Thursday.
Early in the year, Kacie recorded Norwood’s lone goal in a 1-0 win over Dedham, the No. 5 seed in Division 2 South.
Her mother is due for another round of chemo early next week, but she hopes to make it to her daughter’s games for as long as Kacie and Norwood are still playing. She wants to share as many pre-game smiles as she can.