Hough’s Leonard took care of things on and off the field
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Bailey Leonard didn’t qualify for the title per se, but embraced her unofficial role on the Hough High girls lacrosse team.
“We called her the team mom,” coach Anna Mitchell said. “Bailey was a leader on and off the field.”
Leonard, a senior midfielder, laughed when she heard the tag. To her, it wasn’t a burden. She gave teammates rides to and from practice. Made sure everyone had transportation. Led practice drills. Took teammates to lunch if they wanted to discuss personal issues.
“I love giving advice,” Leonard said. “I want to do something with counseling when I get older. I like helping people.”
Leonard’s contributions on the field were equally impressive, making her the Herald Weekly 2012 Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year. She scored a team-high 41 goals and added six assists and 34 ground balls to help the second-year Huskies (10-6) qualify for the state playoffs.
“This year, our conference was better competition than last year,” Leonard said. “My role last year was more of going to the goal and shooting. This year it was more about helping the team without going to the goal. We had more girls who could go to the net and score. My role was to make plays and create plays for the attackers.”
Leonard, despite midfielder duties that took her all around the field, returned to a scoring role when necessary. She had four games of four or more goals (twice scoring five) and had a stellar 53.9 shooting percentage (41 goals on 76 shots).
“She is so speedy, and a workhorse,” Mitchell said. “She has an unmatched work ethic and can run circles around our players. She always brings it.”
Leonard’s strong play helped Hough finish in a tie with Lake Norman and Providence for second place in Conference 7. The Huskies were 10-4 in conference games, despite having several inexperienced players.
“I learned to see the field more and better,” Leonard said. “It improved my off-the-ball movement and what I can do when I’m not the one going to goal. That helped a lot (preparing) for college especially.”
Leonard signed to play next fall at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory. She and her senior teammates built a decent foundation in Hough’s first two years. Leonard’s first two high school seasons at Hopewell High were a struggle to get players, and they had to provide the essentials, she said.
“Being able to make the playoffs (at Hough) I think helped people respect us,” she said. “We showed we can go out to the field and do something with ourselves.”
Leonard this summer is preparing for the rigors of the college game.
“It’s like a whole other game out there, the intensity that college sports brings,” she said. “I can prepare myself, but obviously it’s not going to hit me until I get there and play. It’s going to be an adjustment. It’s a faster pace, and all the girls can throw and catch.”