Not many athletes can say they went from being walk-ons to hall of fame inductees, but that’s exactly what Kelly Smith accomplished during her four-year (1997-2000) Keene State College field hockey career.

“I honestly didn’t feel I’d make the field hockey team at Keene State, but regrets are awful, so I figured I’d at least try,” said Smith, the seventh field hockey player to be inducted into the Keene State Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame.

After finding the field and getting permission to try out from Coach Amy Watson, Smith dashed back to her dorm to pick up her stick and equipment. “I was scared,” said Smith. “All the players were so much better than me.”

Watson, however, had a different opinion. “Kelly came back to practice and ended up being faster than most of the other girls on the field,” said Watson. “Being a walk-on in this day and age is almost unheard of, but, to her credit, Kelly became a very strong player who other teams had to keep a close eye on.”

Smith’s self-doubts began to vanish within a few weeks. “Halfway through the season, Coach Watson was telling the other players to get the ball to me so I could bring it up,” said Smith. “My confidence began to grow.”

Growing up in Lisbon, a small town in northern New Hampshire, Smith didn’t pick up a field hockey stick until she was in the eighth grade. “I liked the speed of the game and really enjoyed it,” she said.

Although the field hockey program at Lisbon High was eventually disbanded, Smith went on to become a standout at Keene State. “I trained really hard and constantly worked on my stick skills,” she said. “Even after my freshman year, I knew no position was guaranteed.”

Smith’s hard work paid off. By the end of her career she’d filled her field hockey net with an assortment of accolades. A two-time second-team All-American and first-team All-Region forward, the fleet-footed Smith was twice selected the Little East player of the year and was named to the All-Conference first team three consecutive seasons. At the conclusion of her career, she was first in assists (37) and second in goals (51) and points (139) on KSC’s all-time list.

Helping KSC establish a streak of 37 home victories, Smith was at her best when her team needed her the most. Her first year team won the first-ever LEC tournament title and reached the finals of the Eastern College Athletic Conference championships. As a sophomore, Smith scored consecutive game-winning goals in the semifinals and finals of the LEC tournament, propelling the Owls to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 15 years. “It was the best weekend of my life,” said Smith, who also led KSC to an ECAC berth her senior season.

In addition to playing with talented teammates, Smith credits several people for her development and drive to excel in the sport, including her high school coach, Carolyn Myers, and her mom, Patricia Smith, who died six years ago.

“We were playing a very tough Middlebury game and Coach Watson picked me to take a penalty stroke and I made it,” remembered Smith. “After the game I gave the ball to my mother. My mother was always the person behind me. She would’ve been so proud of me being inducted into the Keene State Hall of Fame.”