In soccer, it is the goal scorers who often receive the bulk of the praise. Fans and media yearn for the spectacular, which often focuses their eyes directly up front. Meanwhile, in the back, defenders are caught in a tough position — their success often goes unnoticed while their mistakes are magnified many times over. But for the women’s soccer team, it is junior co-captain Leslie Campbell’s embracing of her unglamorous role in defense that gives the squad a unique sense of comfort in the back — a comfort that the job will definitely get done.
“It is very rare that the central defender is the key player on the team,” said interim head coach Gretchen Zigante. “Everyone admires her very much.”
Zigante and the rest of the team have given Campbell an apt nickname to describe her style of play and her role on the team — Cannavaro. It is only fitting that the Red’s elite defender be compared to Fabio Cannavaro, the anchor of Italy’s World Cup defense and recipient of the Silver Ball and who was second only to Golden Ball winner, headstrong Zinedine Zidane, as the tournament’s best player.
Like Cannavaro, Campbell always makes her presence felt in the back and routinely takes on the task of marking the other teams best player. Dependable and aggressive, she is the type of player goalkeepers want to protect them.
“I was a goalkeeper,” Zigante said. “I would be honored to have her in front of me.”
While taking on the captaincy is a new challenge for Campbell, she is a natural leader and has a unique passion for the game that is contagious with the other players.
“More than anything she leads by example,” said senior Jessica Schindler. “She backs it up on the field and is amazingly reliable.”
Consequently, after a rough out-of- league showing for the team, reliability will be a necessary attribute in order to help the Red get back on track during the Ivy season. Campbell, as a captain and a star, will be charged with restoring the confidence of the team and pushing for ascendancy in the Ivy League. Zigante is confident that Campbell will be up for the task.
“She really feels every single game, win or loss,” Zignante said. “She takes ownership and really fights for victory in every minute of the game.”
The seasoned Campbell has been a mainstay of the Red defense since her arrival on the East Hill from Sacramento, Calif. She started every match as a freshman and will likely continue to be the defensive rock at center back for Cornell. A second team All-Ivy performer last season, Campbell will look to lead Cornell to a successful 2006.
“She doesn’t care about individual accolades,” Zigante said. “[Like the rest of the team], she is focused on the team goals.”
So far this season, while the Red’s offense has struggled, the levelheaded Campbell has continued to keep the opposition away from the goal and forced teams away from attacks down the middle of the field. As for the rest of the season — expect more of the same.
“We will see the same consistency she has always had [this season],” Zigante said. “The more the team is successful, the more individual players [like Leslie] will get recognized.