The Draw Starts It All
When you’re as good as Alyssa Leonard, the luck of the draw tends to sway in your favor.
Under the tutelage of Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, the junior midfielder has developed into one of the premier draw specialists in women’s lacrosse and a critical cog in the Wildcats’ machine. (Draws are similar to a faceoff in hockey, determining which team gains possession at the start or restart of play.) Leonard has the numbers to back it up. She tied the NCAA single-game mark and set a school record for draw controls with 15 against the University of Southern California in February.
“It was just another game for me,” says Leonard, who ranked second in the nation in draw controls in early April. Although records aren’t Leonard’s first priority, more have come her way. She topped the Northwestern record of 268 draw controls held by Kristen Kjellman (C07) and has climbed into the top 10 all-time in women’s Division I lacrosse.
“She’s got a lot of natural ability,” says Amonte Hiller, a draw specialist herself. “She’s just got really great hands, and without much teaching she was very good on the draw. We’ve been able to hone her skills and teach her some really key components.”
Leonard notched a remarkable 91 and 90 draw controls her first two seasons.
“I wasn’t much of a ball handler when I first started,” says Leonard, who didn’t play lacrosse until her junior year of high school. “I would really just pull the ball at first, because I was relatively strong. I started to develop my stick work, [and] I have almost perfected it here with Kelly.”
Leonard has also expanded her game beyond the draw circle, needing only four games to surpass her point totals from the past two years. She’s the second-leading scorer for the Wildcats, who hoped to hoist the championship trophy for the eighth time in nine years.
“For anyone who plays a sport, that’s the dream,” says Leonard. “I try to take it one game at a time, but in the back of our heads, that’s our goal.”