The power and the glory are on her side.
It’s only fitting Westholme’s Rylee Smith played on the Victoria Glory in her final season of fastball on the Island. She’s bound for greater glory now, as she heads into the U.S. college ranks as a member of the College of Idaho’s Coyotes in Caldwell, Idaho.
The first day of classes is Aug. 24, earlier in the U.S. than Canada, so Smith was running around last week and preparing to high-tail it out of here by Sunday. She still managed to squeeze in this interview only three days before her departure.
“I haven’t even packed yet,” said Smith, who just turned 19 on July 24. She expected to get that done pronto to make her deadline.
After finishing as a player with the Victoria Devils Under 19 team last year, Smith decided to take a year off from schooling to work, travel and stick around to join a new team, the Glory, for one season.
“I went on a trip to California and Mexico with my friend,” she indicated. They met up with another friend in Mexico, spending two weeks there as well as another week in California where her uncle lives.
Smith returned just before the May long weekend to begin her tenure with the Glory. Rocky Vitale was supposed to coach, but he went to U17 and Russ Fanucchi was elevated from assistant coach.
The U19 Glory started with indoor practices. Games were played against women’s teams in Victoria to supplement the schedule and the team went to Vancouver for tournaments, but the unseasonably poor weather in the spring and early summer hampered those efforts.
“Three tournaments got cancelled this year because of the rain,” said Smith. “Some of them we just got to play a couple of games.
“In June, we didn’t really go anywhere. Half of our girls were graduating.”
Smith had already graduated in 2021 but the majority of the players were a year younger and there weren’t enough to keep the team going during that time.
But Smith got some extra playing time after being picked up by the White Rock Renegades in the Canada Cup during June, a tournament usually held in July around Canada Day weekend.
“Everything got pushed up,” said Smith of the schedule.
The Glory never really got a chance to realize its full potential with the weather and graduation situations.
“We had a good team this year,” noted Smith. “I did some pitching, mostly outfield. For school next year, I don’t really know. I like both. If he (the coach) wants me to mostly play outfield, I will play outfield.”
College of Idaho was initially one of Smith’s choice destinations for college, but she wound up going there in a roundabout way after other schools entered the picture.
“I was talking to some schools, one in New York and one in Oregon,” Smith indicated.
It appeared the Oregon school was going to be her choice, but then she changed her mind. “I had this weird feeling, I just don’t want to go,” Smith said.
She was familiar with College of Idaho coach Al Mendiola from previous contact and then the idea of going there resurfaced.
“Coach Rocky said this is the school I should go to,” Smith explained.
She kept her options open and talked to Mendiola again.
“The next week he was playing at UBC and I met him there,” Smith pointed out. “The next day I just committed. It happened so quickly.”
She feels more comfortable about going there because she already knows another member of the team, Hallie Holland, from Victoria and feels Mendiola’s approach will be a good fit for her.
“My coach, he’s really like family-oriented,” Smith said. “He thinks of all the girls on the team as his own daughters.”
She’s looking forward to being part of the softball team known as the Yotes and hopes to get her trademark No. 21 jersey again. The Yotes play in the Cascade Collegiate Conference with other teams from Idaho, UBC, Montana, Oregon and Washington state and have additional non-conference games against teams from other states. Practices begin Sept. 1 and exhibition games are played during the fall before the main season gets going in the spring.
Smith will be majoring in exercise science and taking general courses for the first semester.
It’ll all be an eye-opener for her from the time she arrives there. “I haven’t even seen the school yet,” she confided.
But dad and famous fastball pitcher Rick Smith of Crofton laid the groundwork, meeting with the coach and visiting the school in a scouting trip for his daughter.