Each week, The Baltimore Sun will publish a Q&A with a college lacrosse player to get you better acquainted with the player and his or her team. Today's guest is Towson senior Katie Leech, who has emerged as a top matchup defender since switching from midfield two years ago.
The Winters Mill graduate scored 81 goals in leading the Falcons to a state title as a senior, but she enjoys the challenge of playing defense for the No. 14 Tigers (2-0), who appear poised for a banner season after beating the U.S. national team in fall ball and upsetting then-No. 9 Georgetown on Saturday.
What was your reaction when you were moved to defense?
When I first started playing lacrosse, I was always a midfielder, so I played a lot of attack and a lot of defense, but I've always taken a lot of pride in one-on-one defense. When you play attack, you get a lot of recognition for the assists and the goals and that's always nice. Now that I'm a defender, it's harder to earn recognition, but when you do earn it, it's an awesome feeling, because you know you worked really hard for it.
Was it difficult to make the transition to a full-time defensive player?
It wasn't that big of a challenge. I feel like I have such a huge role as a defender now. The game I got moved was my sophomore year when we played Syracuse and a defender got hurt. At the time, I was playing middie and I enjoyed being an impact player freshman and sophomore years, but when I got moved to defense, I was like, "Yes, this is my time." It was awesome because the first game I got moved, I started having a matchup, and ever since, I've had an attacker to mark up every single game.
What goes through your mind when playing one-on-one defense?
I think of it as a game. You have to get in that attacker's mind and you have to get them frustrated. Once you play good body defense and they start getting frustrated, you know you've won. The second you know you've won that game, you have it all in the bag. It's "OK, I'm in her head and she's not getting around me."
At 5 feet 4 you're not nearly as tall as most players who take the draw, so what's your strategy?
My strategy is usually quickness. The ball might not be in my stick correctly or it might not be perfectly set, but right off the whistle, if you're quicker, you're going to win that draw and you're going to get it to go where you want it. I look at the ref's lips on the whistle and right when I think she's going to tweet it or right as she tweets it, I'm turning that wrist back and pulling it or pushing it right into the direction I want the ball to go.
Have you ever drawn against someone smaller than you?
I don't think I've ever drawn against someone shorter than me. If the ball does go straight up in the air, my goal is to box out and get the tall people over my back and either get a foul or use boxing out and get that ball. I'm very feisty when it comes to the draw.
With such a veteran team and the upset win over Georgetown, do you feel this could be a special year for Towson?
We already talked about it last week. We're like, "We're going to the NCAA championships and we're not stopping there." The championships are at Towson this year and we're going to be there. We're going to have to earn it, but I think we can do it if we keep playing the way we're playing and we play as a team.
As a criminal justice major, you've expressed an interest in homeland security. Is that still your career goal?
That is my career goal, but I've accepted a job in England in August to coach and teach at a boarding school for a year, so I'm going to do that first. You go over and you try to help develop lacrosse. I have a passion for coaching and I've coached since I was in high school, so I figured I would do that for a year and then maybe go into some college coaching and then go into the criminal justice field.