Not many collegiate athletes can say they became a varsity starter the moment they set foot on campus. Then again, not many athletes are as talented as women’s soccer sophomore Leslie Campbell.
Touted to be the Red’s top back by head coach Berhane Andeberhan, Campbell has been a rock for the team’s defense, starting every one of the 30 games that the Red has played since she arrived in Ithaca 14 months ago.
“She plays throughout every game,” said freshman Megan Joerger. “She starts and finishes every one.”
Although Campbell’s contribution has not been visible on the stat sheet – she has only attempted two shots in her career – her impact has been felt.
“She is like a whole defensive line – nothing gets past her,” Joerger said. “I don’t know where we would be without her.”
“She is one of the most reliable players on the team no matter what’s happening in the game,” said junior Whitney Hughes.
For instance, without Campbell, the Red allowed 13.2 shots per game in 2003. However, with the Sacramento, Calif. native anchoring the backfield this season, opponents have only managed 11.5 attempts per contest.
Maybe most impressive has been Campbell’s role in helping hold the defense together, even after the Red’s loss of longtime goalkeeper Katie Thomas following the 2004 season. With a three-way competition for the goalie spot heading into the current campaign, it was expected the Cornell squad would experience a period of adjustment.
On the contrary, however, the Campbell-led defense has thrived, even with the starting net-minder changing on a game-to-game basis. The result was a six-game winning streak through which Cornell held its opponents to only three total goals.
“She’s a great leader,” Joerger said. “She does a good job playing with anyone.”
Now that freshman goalkeeper Taylor Hendren has emerged as the primary starter, Campbell and the rest of the defense continues its strong play. Overall, the Red has stifled opponent’s offenses, allowing just 1.61 goals per game en route to earning four shutouts.
Off the field as well, Campbell has been one of the team’s strongest guiding influences.
“She is inspirational on and off the field,” Hughes said. “She puts so much into the team – She has a great positive attitude and is a great leader, even when she was a freshman.”
Even, before coming to Cornell, Campbell had already established herself as a premier player in high school, collecting several awards for her play.
A two-time Sierra Valley Conference MVP, Campbell also collected All-City Player of the Year honors as a senior. In addition, the two-year captain earned the A. Dale Lackey CIF Scholar-Athlete Award.
With the season dwindling down, Campbell and the rest of the defense should play an integral role in keeping Cornell close in its lone pair of Ivy games left. The Red will battle Princeton on the road this Saturday before wrapping up the season at Dartmouth the following weekend.
Archived article by Scott Reich
Sun Staff Writer