Tina Smith is a fourth-year starting guard for Woodbridge, the third-ranked team in the area. An excellent outside shooter, she averages 11.2 points and four assists per game for the undefeated Vikings.
Smith is happy to be contributing. Her basketball career is back on track after taking a detour last season. At times as a junior, she wondered if things would ever be this good again.
In her freshman and sophomore seasons, Smith was part of a program in a pivotal period. The Vikings had won only two games during the 1981-82 season, but in her sophomore year, they finished 11-8..
This season, Smith has helped Woodbridge to a 20-0 record. The Vikings easily won the Commonwealth District regular season title with a 14-0 league record.
"We had a good group of freshmen and we really wanted to do well," Smith said. "There was talent, height and quickness. Coach (Ron) Davis put a lot of time and energy into the team and we started winning."
Initially, Smith's play was praiseworthy. She was lauded for her accuracy and baseline moves, developed with help from brother Steve (a guard on the state champion Gar-Field team five years ago) since she was 8. She averaged 8.1 points per game as a freshman and 13.3 as a sophomore. Her other skills were almost as sharp; she was a well-rounded player.
Although her scoring average dropped only one point, Smith's skills in other areas faltered during a troublesome junior year. It left her confused, without a solution.
"There wasn't anything I could really put my finger on," said Smith. "I had done so well. I wasn't out trying different things. Basketball was the most important thing in my life and it, along with my studies, still is. But I could tell I wasn't playing up to my potential and I didn't know why. I had lost my intensity and my confidence."
The situation grew so bleak that, after missing a free throw that could have won a crucial game for the Vikings, Smith, who Davis calls a steady player, was visibly upset. Her usefulness to the team was in jeopardy.
"I think Tina was used to doing so much and she was expecting to have to contribute as much as she had," said Davis. "Last year we found we had other people who could do those things and she wasn't used to that."
The Vikings, winners by more than 10 points in all but three games this year, lost to Gar-Field three times en route to a 14-6 record last year. Smith took it to heart when Woodbridge failed to win the district and regional tournaments.
"I knew I had to do something. I couldn't go through another year in a slump," she said. "I needed a switch to get my confidence back."
Smith's answer came after gaining a spot on an 18-and-under AAU team representing East Prince William County.
"I had a really good series with them over the summer," said Smith. "Everyone else from our (high school) team was on the 16-and-unders. It was a good break. I was thrilled to play and even more thrilled when Coach Davis came to one of the games. I did well and he said, 'Now, that looks like the Tina of old.' It meant a lot to me."
It was not that comment alone that has endeared Smith and her teammates to their coach.
"He has done so much for us," said Smith. "I have never seen a person put so much into something. I have friends at other schools in the district and I can't believe what they call practice. We really learn a lot.
"Coach Davis reacts to what happens; he doesn't let things go. He teaches us to handle what the other teams do. We may feel terrible at times, but we know it helps. We've put in a good day's work and will be a better basketball team."