Belle Smith knows how to dig her way out of any situation.
In fact, she’s done it over 2000 times, shattering Westhampton Beach’s previous record of 654 digs.
The senior libero and six-year starter on the girls volleyball team has had a major impact on the athletic program, but said it’s also supported her.
“Westhampton has given me so much opportunity to accomplish milestones and I’m so grateful for that,” she said. “We play a sport where everyone else’s success depends on your success, more literally than other sports. A good pass helps your setter with an easier set, leading to a good hit. It makes the game so much more fun.”
Head coach Lenny Zaloga said Smith continues to make the game easier for her teammates.
“We know what’s happening at all times when Belle’s on the floor,” he said. “She makes it much easier for the other kids because they aren’t running around chasing balls when Belle passes, because her control is so good. It’s great to have her . . . we always think she’s going to get to the ball.”
“Belle helps all of us,” junior setter Olivia Jayne said. “She makes all of us better. I’ve learned so much from her.”
Smith, an All-State volleyball standout who was named top midfielder in her class by Inside Lacrosse and the organization’s 2020 No. 2 overall recruit in the country, who was also tabbed All-County in basketball while breaking the points record with 1300, never fears diving for the ball. She said the achievement makes all the bumps and bruises worth it.
“Volleyball is a sport of different roles, and as libero, my role is to do everything I can to not let the ball touch the floor,” Smith said. “So, if diving is what I need to do to keep the play going, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Smith first broke the school record as a sophomore, en route to reaching 1000 digs that season. She now has 2087.
“It was then I realized I could possibly double that in my next two years and hit 2000,” she said. “Westhampton has been a great team for the past six years, and because of that we’ve gone deep into the playoffs, and playing in more games helps.”
The previous record was set in 2000 by current Westhampton boys volleyball coach Jackie Reed. Reed was a setter who played varsity for five years, from 1996 to 2000, back when volleyball was played in the spring.
“I think it’s great that Belle surpassed my record,” said Reed, who didn’t even know she held the previous best record. “To me, records are meant to be broken. If they are not broken, that means the program is not progressing and the athletes are not advancing their skills.”
Smith started playing volleyball with her dad on the beach when she was young. Reed had her older sister Alexa on her seventh-grade team, which is when she first met the senior standout.
“She must have been six or seven years old,” Reed said. “She had a great touch of the ball and was not afraid to play with the older kids. I think that she is able to see the court better than your average student-athlete. She can anticipate where the ball is going based on the opponents’ body language. This gives her a big advantage. Belle obviously is an amazing athlete — she is a stud in anything she does athletic-wise. She is a student of the game. She plays as well as any true competitor.”
While Reed has not seen Smith play as much recently as she would like, with her boys typically practicing or playing at the same time, she still knows the family well.
“All three daughters are great athletes, but more importantly, amazing people,” she said. “They are very sweet and caring, and are great teammates. To me as a coach, that’s what’s most important.”
Smith’s mother Jen said that’s what she loves most — that with all her daughter has accomplished, representing USA this past summer in the World Lacrosse Women’s U19 tournament and helping the team reclaim gold with a win over Canada, being a lacrosse Under Armour Underclass Tournament champion, and garnering two U.S. Lacrosse All-America nods, among myriad other honors, her heart is seen first rather than her achievements.
“The more I see Belle have success, the more I see how God is using her for a platform further reaching than sports,” she said. “It’s definitely a gift. She truly amazes me. This milestone simply confirms to me that Belle has been given an opportunity to be a light in a world where a light is needed.”
And Smith still has her sights set on more.
“I set this milestone as my final personal goal for volleyball,” she said. “But the most important goal to me is the team goal of winning a county championship.”
Westhampton has made it to the Suffolk County finals the last five seasons, being shut out by Kings Park in all but one match. The Hurricanes took one set from the Kingsmen in the finals last season, and a record two in the October 11 matchup between the two teams.
“I’m very grateful for those I’ve been surrounded by for the past six years. I’m so appreciative,” Smith said. “No athlete can accomplish goals like these without a coach and team giving them every opportunity to do so.”