MURFREESBORO – Smyrna senior Sierra Franz barely played half a season last year.
The 17-year-old was forced to the Lady Bulldogs’ bench for a big chunk of her junior campaign because of an injury.
The time away proved to be negligible for the forward though.
In the six weeks she did spend with her high school program in 2013, Franz still scored 13 goals, earned all-state team honors and committed to play for Tennessee-Martin.
Smyrna coach Brian Grogan said that on-field performance a year ago turned his 2014 team captain into the unquestioned leader of his team.
“I have five seniors this year,” Grogan explained. “She’s the top. The other ones are good kids and good leaders but she’s definitely set herself apart. Everyone knows that’s clear and it’s not because she says so or she does so by voice. It’s just purely how she carries herself and mostly her performance in games.
“A lot of the girls, especially (being) females, they bicker and a lot of them say, you know, ‘I don’t want to hear you yell at me.’ (But) any of them will tell you, ‘I don’t care if Sierra yells at me. She can yell at me all she wants because she gets it done on the field.’ That’s extremely important to (the other players).”
Franz, a three-year starter, said she’s accepted her role as a team leader entering her final season. But she downplayed her place in the team’s hierarchy.
“It’s there’s no leadership, then you don’t really have anything,” Franz said. “This year is better than any of my other years at Smyrna. We have a great group of seniors and everyone is doing their part.
“Most of us hangout outside of school.”
Despite her humble outlook, Grogan said Franz, who also was The Daily News Journal’s Girls Soccer Player of the Year in 2013, has made his job easier because of her ultra-competitive work ethic.
“She wants to make sure that she’s the first one in front doing it the best,” Grogan said. “From the coaching side, that’s great to have, knowing that you don’t have to motivate her to play hard.
“It’s not just me out there telling (the other players) they need to do it better or faster. There’s somebody out there actually doing it better and faster. They know what to strive for and to reach to. It’s not just an imaginary number. There’s somebody already setting the pace.”
Franz, one of Rutherford County’s fastest players, called this year’s squad one of the most-attacking teams for which she’s ever played and she has lofty expectations because of it.
She said advancing to a region final and a Class AAA sectional is her goal.
“We finished second in the district last year and (Franz) only played six weeks of the regular season,” Grogan said. “We only graduated one senior starter.
“We are expecting to challenge every district team for the top spot. The problem with that is that our district is just so competitive that you can’t just say you’re going to be No. 1.
“We expect to be in every game. There’s no matchup that I think that we’re just extremely out-matched, out-numbered or out-skilled.”
Contact Will Borthick at 615-278-5167 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @willborthick.