On the same day Aaron Leeds was named the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association's Division III South Defensive Player of the Week, the Salisbury junior defenseman continued his strong play.
After registering five ground balls and one caused turnover in a 19-5 shellacking of then-No. 20 Christopher Newport on April 6 and seven ground balls and six caused turnovers in a 13-3 rout of Frostburg State on Saturday, the Owings Mills resident and Boys' Latin graduate notched three ground balls and three caused turnovers in Wednesday's 17-5 thumping of No. 7 York.
In 16 starts for the top-ranked Sea Gulls (16-0 overall and 8-0 in the Capital Athletic Conference), Leeds ranks fourth on the team in caused turnovers with 22 and sixth in ground balls with 38.
Coach Jim Berkman said the key to Leeds' success has been his renewed commitment to his physical conditioning.
"One of the knocks on him is he hasn't always been in the best shape, and that was one of our focuses this year, and he did that," Berkman said Thursday of the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Leeds. "We don't have a lot of depth on close defense. So those three guys [including sophomores Will Nowesnick and Kyle Tucker] have been playing pretty much whole games. I just think he's continuing to get in better shape. If he does that, he has a really good stick. He's gotten more turnovers, he's gotten himself to more balls that maybe he wouldn't have gotten to before, and when he does get to those balls, he can get the ball off the ground. So I think that's why he's been getting more ground balls, and he's been getting a few more takeaways because he's in better shape and he's put himself in a better position to utilize his skills."
Berkman acknowledged that Leeds may have felt overlooked as Tucker (39 ground balls and 31 caused turnovers) and Nowesnick (36GB, 29CT) have gained more attention. But Berkman said Leeds' recent showings have proven that he can be just as effective as his more heralded teammates.
"He's a solid, all-around good defenseman, especially when he's in the shape that he's in now," Berkman said. "He's always been able to pick passes off at a higher than normal rate. … He's got a few checks, and if he uses them at the right time, he can be effective. If he tries to do them too much and gets extended, then he's not. And he really clears the ball well. He's got a really good stick."