by Chris Hunt
Hough girls lacrosse player Bailey Leonard hates to run. Her disposition to long distance workouts is quite ironic considering she plays the outside midfield spot for the Huskies, a demanding position that requires her to sprint back and fourth along the sideline for the entire game.
To prepare for Hough’s first season of girls lacrosse, Leonard put her distaste for distance running aside and hit the road. After two seasons playing for the Hopewell lacrosse squad, the rising junior knew she would have to be in shape for the 2011 campaign – especially if she was going to play outside midfielder for her new team.
“(Outside) runs the whole field and its very demanding to your physical conditioning,” said Leonard. “I hate running, but I would go on runs through my neighborhood because I knew I would get my butt kicked if I wasn’t in shape as a midfielder.”
It appears that Leonard’s hard work was well worth the effort because not only did she earn all-conference honors this spring, she’s also the Herald Weekly’s 2011 Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year.
As a co-captain, the physically fit Leonard led the surprising Huskies in goals this season with 47. She was also one of the many reasons Hough won nine of its 14 games and finished second to conference champion Lake Norman High School in its first campaign. An invitation to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs as a wild card served only to whet the Huskies’ appetite for next season.
“I definitely didn’t think this season would end up like this,” said Leonard. “I was surprised how much talent we had at the beginning of the season.”
Leonard learned the game of lacrosse from her brothers Pierce and Patrick, who grew up playing the sport and graduated from Hopewell High School. To this day, Leonard said she’s more comfortable controlling the ball with the deeper pocket of a boys’ lacrosse stick, instead of the shallow pouch offered by a girls’ stick. Leonard’s ability to maneuver the ball on the left and right sides equally, along with her quickness and knowledge of the game, was more than enough to make up for her lack of size.
“I’m little so people don’t see me on the field,” joked Leonard. “I’m pretty fast, so defenders don’t see me until I’m gone.”
Now that the 2011 season is over, there’s still plenty of motivation for Leonard to tie on her jogging shoes and hit the pavement. The Huskies’ first-round playoff loss to Providence High School on April 29 – their second loss to the Panthers this season – is an unpleasant incentive. So is their second-place finish in the conference to Lake Norman.
“A few games into the season, we realized we had a lot of potential,” said Leonard. “We felt like we could win the No. 1 seed out of the conference. We thought we had it. That will make me stay in shape until next year because we raised the expectations. Next year, we expect to go deep in the playoffs.”