Lake Oswego Athlete of the Year: Carlie Leach
Lake Oswego High School's Carlie Leach wasn't a big scorer in soccer.
She wasn't LO's top scorer in lacrosse, either.
And she certainly wasn't the biggest or fastest player on her senior-season teams.
What she was, however, was the Lakers' best player in both sports and their unquestioned leader during a stellar senior campaign.
In soccer, Leach's Lakers finished just fifth during the Three Rivers League regular season, but stepped up to beat seventh-ranked South Salem in the first playoff round, then pushed No. 10 Grant to the limit before losing in overtime in round two.
She was even better during her final season of lacrosse, leading the Lakers to an unbeaten Three Rivers championship, an unbeaten in-state record, a 20-1 overall mark and a third straight Oregon Girls Lacrosse Association state championship.
Leach was honored with a berth on the all-TRL first team for her efforts in soccer, then was selected first-team all-TRL, first-team all-state and All-American in lacrosse.
For all those reasons and more, Leach has been named one of the Lake Oswego Review's two 2018 Athletes of the Year for Lake Oswego High School. The Athlete of the Year honor is awarded to the top senior athlete(s) at Lake Oswego High School. Leach, who will continue her athletic career next year as a member of the University of Oregon women's lacrosse team, shares the Athlete of the Year award with Laker football and baseball star Jake Dukart.
Her high school coaches were not surprised by her success.
"Carlie is an extremely dedicated individual," said Lake Oswego girls lacrosse coach Lauren Anderson. "When she sets her mind on accomplishing something, there is nothing that can get in her way."
"As a player, Carlie is a dedicated athlete," said Laker girls soccer coach Dominic Yambasu. I could always depend on her to give her all every time she stepped on the field."
Leach's senior soccer season was a true journey, a year filled with ups and downs, momentum swings and uncertainty, but a year that also ended on a decided upswing with the Lakers' strong finish in the playoffs.
As to that uncertainty, Leach actually considered not playing soccer as a senior.
"I wasn't 100 percent sure I'd play soccer as a senior — lots of seniors just focus on their college sport — but all my friends who I'd played with since first grade were still playing so I had to do it."
After starting the year — including a tough-as-nails preseason schedule — at 0-4-3, the Lakers began to find their footing. They went 2-3-1 over the next three weeks, finally found the formation that worked best and finished the year playing their best soccer.
"In league, we finally began to put some things together and get some confidence. The sophomores who were really good began to show what they could do, and we finally changed our formation to a 4-4-2," Leach said. "We had so many formations this year it was almost comical."
Through it all, Leach persevered, led, shared the ball, shared credit and shared her passion for winning.
"I'm an intense player, but soccer this year was more fun," Leach said, noting that fellow senior co-captain Emma DeVine — along with seniors Ally Hock, Rowan Anderson and Carson Miller — played huge roles in the team's development over the year. "Emma could have led the team all by herself. That's what drove the team and changed it from beginning to end."
"She is a fierce competitor who thrived on challenges," Yambasu said of Leach. "She is a great team player who was liked and respected by her teammates and opponents alike."
While Leach scored just one goal and made three assists, her one goal was huge, tying South Salem in the waning minutes of regulation play and helping force overtime, where the Lakers eventually won 4-3 in penalty kicks. They then went on to challenge Grant in the second round before eventually falling short 1-0.
Looking back on her final soccer season, Leach had nothing but positive memories.
"I would have regretted not playing. I'm so glad I got that last season with (Yambasu and assistant coach Nick Schwartz)," she said, noting that being part of Yambasu's final year was extremely meaningful. "He's the kindest soul you'll ever meet. He has a great heart and he'd do anything for us."
Likewise, Yambasu left with warm feelings for Leach and her impact on his program.
"As a person, Carlie is a wonderful young lady who is easy to talk to and work with," he said. "I always liked the way she interacted with me and her teammates. She is a great leader who was always seen helping her teammates, especially the younger players. Her teammates loved her."
With her competitive soccer career at an end, Leach said she was satisfied with the great memories she made as a senior.
"I'll remember our final game together, especially me, Emma, Ally and Carson because the four of us played together for so long," Leach said. "It was like 'This is it. We'll never play on a competitive team together again.' It was the end of an era; life was changing and moving on."
As rewarding as her senior soccer season was, her final Laker lacrosse season was even bigger and better.
Her Lakers opened the year with 13 straight wins, dropped a tough 13-12 non-league decision to Bainbridge Island, Wash., then tacked on another seven straight wins to close out the year, including playoff victories over Oregon Episcopal, Hood River, and in the state championship, Jesuit.
After winning state titles as a sophomore and junior, and after deciding that lacrosse would be her sport of choice in college, going out on top was a very big deal for Leach.
"I met with (Lauren Anderson) at the start of the year and we decided that the goal was to win state," Leach said. "We knew it would take a lot of work, but we knew we couldn't just focus on that game. We had to focus on each day, each practice — we really wanted to win it."
That said, it wasn't always easy for Leach and the Lakers in 2018. The 2017 team graduated two big-time leaders in Lauren Gilbert and Riley Hertford, and the '18 squad had to integrate three prominent transfers — sophomore midfielder Zoe Ziegler from St. Mary's, junior attack Taylor Hamper from Jesuit and junior attack Rylee Sutherland from Wilson.
While the Lakers were getting the "Ws" early on, Leach knew there was something wrong — there were dropped passes, unfinished shots and a general lack of cohesion. Lake Oswego was winning more with talent than teamwork and Leach knew it couldn't continue that way if the Lakers wanted to reach their ultimate goal.
"I talked with (Lauren Anderson) about it, and then me and Rowan (Anderson) called a team meeting," Leach said. "We all just sat there in the middle of the field and talked about how we should play for the love of the game, for fun, because we love lacrosse and we should play for each other."
Leach did her part by sublimating her own offensive game in order to share the ball, handle some of the dirty work, set up her teammates and lead.
"I saw a great deal of humbleness from Carlie this year as she took a different role," Lauren Anderson said. "As one of the main players to watch going into the 2018 season, Carlie learned how to be successful in more of a support role rather than the role of the goal scorer. In a situation that could have disappointed other athletes, Carlie … showed great maturity and growth."
"I talked with (Lauren Anderson) a lot, and learning from Lauren Gilbert and Riley (Hertford) really helped. I don't know if I'd have been as good without them," Leach said. "I took in a lot of what they did and used it, but it was so difficult, helping other players find their spots.
"Fortunately, we had six seniors who really understood what we needed to do. After that, the best thing you can do is just listen. … You just have to listen and keep it positive."
The results of that effort speak for themselves, and while Leach may have backed off a bit on offense, the rest of the state probably didn't notice. By year's end, Leach — who was named MVP of the 2017 state championship game — finished with 51 goals (second-best on the team behind Katie Freeman's 52), a team-high 33 assists, 51 draw controls won (third-best on the team) as well as 23 ground balls and 14 turnovers caused.
"(She) has a very mature approach to the game. She seeks to learn the how and why of doing things, and has really learned how to read and take advantage of opponents' weaknesses," Lauren Anderson said.
In the end — the Lakers beat Jesuit 12-8 in the May 24 OGLA state championship game — all the hard work, all the challenges, and all the ups and downs were worth it for Leach.
"It all paid off," she said. "After the amount of work we put in, it would have been awful if we hadn't finished it."