Plum senior Rayla Smith sets near unbreakable school record for goals

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Monday, May 20, 2024 | 10:48 AM


Senior Rayla Smith set the all-time goals record for Plum girls lacrosse last season and has added to her total.

The record of 179 goals was set by Plum graduate Sam Casile in 2010. Going into last season, Smith had 121 goals and went on to lead the team with 62 and eclipse the record with 183 for her career.

“It was a great feeling to break that record,” said Rayla, a starting midfielder for the Mustangs. “Without my teammates, I wouldn’t have scored as many goals as I did.”

This season, Rayla has continued to add on. At the end of the regular season she had 60 goals, with the WPIAL playoffs still to come, building her career total to 243.

“She could finish with around 250 goals, maybe even more,” coach Dom Barnabei said. “I don’t see anybody coming close to that for the next eight to 10 years.”

Said Smith: “I hope someone eventually comes along to Plum and breaks it. I think that would be pretty cool, and it would show that Plum lacrosse is still going strong.”

Smith began playing lacrosse when she was 9 years old when her father took her to a clinic.

“My dad taught me the details about sports and helped me understand how to play them,” she said. “He’s been around numerous times for me, was my coach for some of my sports growing up.”

Her knowledge of lacrosse is impeccable and one of the reasons she stands out from her peers.

“Rayla is two steps ahead of everybody else,” Barnabei said. “She’s a chess player on the field. When she makes a move, if it’s a pass going to another midfielder or up to an attacker, she is moving into position ready for the ball and looking to shoot or make a third pass.”

Her knowledge of finding holes in the defense and knowing where to go with the ball have made Smith a key cog in the Mustangs’ offense.

“Rayla’s our go-to person,” Barnabei said. “If we need a goal, Rayla’s going to get it for us. She’s been double- and triple-teamed in almost every game and still finds a way to score.”

Opponents have come to realize the Mustangs offense rolls through Smith and have compensated the last two seasons. But she seems to find ways to score or dish to teammates.

“We work on situations like that in practice, so when it comes to a game, I’m prepared to get out of any situation,” Smith said. “Staying focused in practice and working on the little things really help.

“Also, if I am covered by multiple defenders, I know at least one of my teammates is open, so it’s always good to look for them.”

As a midfielder, Smith’s responsibilities are not solely offensive. She must get back and help defensively. She’s prepared her body to handle the rigors of playing on a large field.

“I find myself always in shape because I feel like I’m a machine, and I’m always going,” she said. “Even on days off, I like to go for a run or get in the weight room and lift just to better myself.”

The Gannon commit played three sports at Plum. She lettered in soccer, basketball and lacrosse all four years.

She was a captain her senior season in soccer and basketball and has been a captain on the lacrosse team the last two seasons.

“She’s one of those quiet leaders and is very respectful of the other players,” Barnabei said. “She doesn’t jump down anyone’s throat; she speaks pleasantly to all of her teammates.”

She was also an all-section and all-WPIAL selection this past fall for soccer and has been all-section and all-WPIAL the last three seasons for lacrosse and figures to earn those honors again this year.

Smith also maintains a 3.75 GPA her senior year and a 3.90 cumulative GPA in her four years.

“It’s been a privilege to watch her mature and grow into a leader and an all-around superb individual,” Barnabei said.

Out of all the games she’s played, Smith said one of her favorite moments was when she scored her 225th career goal.

“We were playing Latrobe in April this year, and my sister (Malayna), who’s one of our goalies, had her 175th save and scored her first goal that game,” Smith said. “The seniors also won their 50th career game. A very memorable night all-around.”

Smith and her sister, who’s a sophomore, have been teammates in all the sports they have played.

“She is, honestly, my best friend and I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to play with her,” Rayla Smith said. “I’m upset that this is my last time playing with her; she’s a great player and a great person to be around.”

At Gannon, Smith will play lacrosse and major in criminal justice, which has always interested her.

“Growing up I would watch shows like ‘Forensic Files,’ ‘Dateline,’ ‘Criminal Minds’,” Rayla Smith said. “I wanted to have a job where I would enjoy learning about that stuff.”

Her chosen career path is still up in the air, but she would like to try detective work and maybe go on to something bigger.

“Maybe even work for the CIA or FBI, which I know both are hard to get into,” she said.

Looking back on her time in sports at Plum, Rayla Smith is thankful for the friendships she’s made with teammates and the lessons she’s learned along the way that will help her as she moves forward in her life.

“Sports have taught me to be a respectable teammate and a coachable player,” she said. “And whatever you’re going through in life, sports can be an outlet for you to get away from those things for a bit and just have fun.”

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