Natasha Leickly led her Columbus Academy field hockey team to a state runner-up finish with 14 goals and 13 assists and has earned Ohio High/Huntington Bank Player of the Year honors.
But this award is not the only accolade this talented student-athlete has earned.
When it comes to the top field hockey player in Ohio this year, she is the most ‘likely’.
Natasha Leickly – that is.
The four-year starter for Columbus Academy led her team to a state runner-up finish with 14 goals and 13 assists, including the lone Academy goal in the state title game.
She was named to the All-Mid-State first team, was an All-Ohio honoree, was selected for the Futures Elite by USA Field Hockey and was recently named a West Region All-American while playing a variety of positions for the Lady Vikings this season.
Although, a state championship game appearance seemed bleak as Columbus Academy (17-2-2) hit a midseason slump. But head coach Anne Horton points the leadership of the seniors and captains, namely Leickly, for the season’s turnaround.
“We returned some veteran players so the girls had some high expectations but we blended some younger players in there with them so I think there was a little bit of a learning curve that the kids had underestimated,” Horton said.
“So, we had a mid-season challenge of trying to overcome some of those issues. I guess Natasha and her senior group pulled through and I think there were a lot of us that wondered if we could pull this thing off by season’s end.
“Natasha’s leadership on and off the field was a major factor in making that happen. So, as the season unfolded we continued to grow and get stronger.”
Despite winning a state championship as a sophomore, it was Leickly’s goal to reach the state championship game her senior year before she even started high school.
“I’ve always talked to the girls in my grade on the team since we were in seventh grade how we wanted to lead the team to the state championship our senior year and we were able to do that,” she said.
“We had a pretty young team this year and the captains and the seniors all got together after the slump we had in the middle of the season and we decided that we needed to push our team to the next level to get to that goal. The underclassmen understood how much it meant to us and we got there. We just kept improving throughout the entire season.”
And Leickly was willing to do anything to accomplish her team’s goal, including playing some positions she was not necessarily familiar with.
“The one thing I was able to do with Tasha is I was able to play her in different positions on the field and she had to play completely different roles that she never had to play before,” Horton explained. “She did it without asking any questions and did it because it was best for the team.
“She’s not selfish and is all about doing what she can to make the team better and in the meantime she’s really pushing herself personally. She’s quite a person.”
Though she filled in at several positions this season, Leickly is primarily a defender and that is what the University of Louisville recruited her as. She chose the Cardinals over Ohio State, Ohio and Cornell.
“Louisville is a great school. It’s great academically and the coaches are amazing,” Leickly said.
“I started talking to them last year and I went down there for my official visit in September. The girls on the team are amazing and (head coach Pam Bustin) is great.”
A former defender herself, Bustin played for the USA National Field Hockey Team and is currently an assistant coach for the team.
“It is just a perfect fit,” Leickly said.
Horton expects much of the same success once Leickly arrives on Louisville’s campus.
“She is going to do fantastic. She has worked hard to get her game to the level where it is right now and, obviously, her abilities were noticed by college coaches,” said Horton. “Her work ethic, her commitment and her tenacious attitude is going to help her overcome that learning curve you have to get through as a young player coming in at the collegiate level.
“I think she is going to find herself playing very early in her college career and I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Leickly’s interest in field hockey was first sparked when her older sister Miranda took up the sport. The elder Leickly played at Columbus Academy as well and went on to play at the College of Wooster from 2003-07.
“(My parents) wanted her to play a sport and she picked field hockey,” Leickly said of her older sister.
“When I was seven, my older sister picked up field hockey and I watched her until she was a senior and when she graduated from high school that was my first year playing field hockey. Just watching her play made me love the sport even more and want to play even more.”
Leickly’s younger sister Clarissa is a freshman at Columbus Academy and saw significant time on the field this season.
“My younger sister didn’t have much of a choice,” Leickly joked. “But she just loved it as much as I did and it is something that the family is passionate about.”
And Horton has enjoyed having the three sisters play for her at Columbus Academy.
“The kids just have a strong comfort factor in trying to become better people and better athletes because they have such a good support base from their parents (Jim and Debra),” she said. “I just feel blessed to have them here.”
For a well as Leickly has done on the field hockey field, she has done just as well in the classroom and she believes success athletically translates to academic success.
“I always thought athletics kind of made me focus more on my schoolwork and definitely pushed me,” she said. “Looking at these colleges, I knew I had to do well academically to get into them.”
And Leickly is instilling that advice in her younger sister as she passes the torch.
“Field hockey-wise, I tell her to just keep working hard because it will pay off in the end,” she said, “and school-wise – just keep studying.”
With her high school career in the books, Leickly is focused on preparing for collegiate field hockey and is grateful for the opportunities she had in high school.
“I just need to keep developing as a player – getting faster and better at stick skills and just being used to what it is like because it is definitely a faster game,” she said.
“But it has been amazing playing for Columbus Academy the last four years and playing for Anne Horton – she’s been such a great coach. It’s just been really awesome.”