April 16, 2009

Stony Brook's Leggio Set to Join Rare Company

from press release

The case of Stony Brook University women's lacrosse star Kaitlin Leggio demonstrates that an elite player from Long Island can stay home, play a sport at a Division I level, excel and have a great experience in the process.

In the history of the America East Conference, which has sponsored women's lacrosse since 1996, only two players have earned all-conference honors all four years: Boston University's Chrissy Lombard and Mary Beth Miller.  More than likely, Leggio, a Bay Shore product, will be number three.  "It hasn't hit me that it's almost over," Leggio said.  "I've made so many lifelong friends.  Stony Brook has been my second home and I don't intend on being too far away from it."

As the 2006 season began under interim coach Allison Comito, the Seawolves were returning their top five leading scorers from 2005, a talented midfield and a defense that would allow only 10 goals per game.  And a freshman midfielder named Kaitlin Leggio was about to embark on a record-setting career.  She would change the culture of Stony Brook women's lacrosse, helping a team that had gone 21-25 in its first three years compile a 31-19 record in her first three seasons.  She owns the school record for points (242) on 146 goals - two fewer than the school record, with two games remaining in her career - and 96 assists.  She also owns the school record for points in a season (71, 2007) and single-game records for goals (seven), assists (six), points (nine), ground balls (10) and draw controls (11, twice).

Not that any of this was much of a surprise.  "I knew her sister and the type of family Kaitlin comes from," Comito said.  "The style she was bringing to Stony Brook was one that was imposing yet selfless."

Meghan McNamara, a former assistant coach at Stony Brook and currently the head coach at C.W. Post, was involved in the recruitment of Leggio.  "I believe the idea of Kaitlin being part of a team that had the opportunity to grow and be ranked captivated her," said McNamara, who along with Comito will coach Leggio and Team Ireland at the 2009 Women's World Cup in Prague, Czech Republic.  "With her enthusiasm, passion, skill and personality, I saw her to be a great fit for Stony Brook's program."

A five-year letterwinner from Bay Shore High School in western Suffolk County, which has produced more than 15 All-American selections - including Leggio's sister, Kristie, an outstanding player at both Maryland and Denver - Leggio amassed 408 points (250 goals, 158 assists) for the Marauders.  "The first time my husband and I thought Kaitlin could be a great player was when she was a freshman and Kristie was a senior at Bay Shore and they made it to the state semifinals," said Sue Leggio, Kaitlin's mother.  Added Kristie, "From the moment we stepped on the field together, I knew she was going to be great.  She has the ability to score from anywhere, make plays happen and get everyone on the team involved."

Playing alongside teammates who would go on to attend lacrosse powers such as Penn State, Denver, Cornell and New Hampshire, Leggio took an unusual route in choosing a college.  She would attend Stony Brook University, a school that had been in Division I for only seven years and had fielded a women's lacrosse program for only three.  "The team chemistry the girls showed me when I came on my official visit was what I wanted," Leggio said.

The Leggio family was pleased with her decision.  "Having her stay on Long Island was something we supported," Sue said.  "By her staying at home, we would have the opportunity to see her grow from game to game."

In every sport, freshmen try to fit in and not be overly demonstrative.  Leggio was no exception.  "It was certainly hard to ignore her presence, and everyone knew the type of player she was, but she didn't speak up," Comito said.  "One thing that helped her was that she started off strong, and certainly stronger than most freshmen."

If scoring 46 goals and adding 10 assists to go with 46 ground balls and 31 draw controls is starting off strong, then Leggio had a seamless freshman season.  Recording the second-best goal-scoring season in school history and ranking eighth among all freshmen nationally in goals per game, Leggio was named America East Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection.  "My goal was to try and play an all-round game," she said.  "I wanted to help the team win."

As hard as it would seem to top a year in which one earns all-conference and rookie of the year honors, Leggio did.  "We certainly had a talented team in 2007, and I knew Kaitlin would be up to the challenge," Comito said.

Leggio recorded 36 goals and 35 assists for a team-high 71 points, good enough to be named America East Player of the Year and earn first-team all-conference honors for a second straight year.  But mainstays Amy Taylor, Carlee Buck, Katie Savino and Jen Sandtorv were lost to graduation.  Would the Seawolves miss a beat in 2008? Not if Leggio had anything to do with it.

Though it took a while to develop offensive chemistry, according to Comito, Leggio had 31 goals and 30 assists as a junior en route to a third straight selection to the America East first team.  "The target was certainly on her back," Comito said, "but her experience and maturity carried her and the team.  We played a number of quality teams her junior year but Kaitlin continued to rise against tougher opponents."  Leggio led the conference in ground balls and caused turnovers per game, was second in draw controls per game and ranked third in draw controls and fourth in ground balls, nationally.

Leggio has tallied 33 goals and 21 assists this season and leads the Seawolves in ground balls (44), draw controls (44) and caused turnovers (23).  "Sometimes we have to tell her to be more selfish and keep the ball and make things happen on her own," Comito said.  "But as a catalyst, she likes to get other people involved.  That's why she's the ultimate team player."

When Leggio and the Seawolves take to the field against Albany on Saturday, April 18, for the final home game of her career, a lot of things will be going through her mind, but she can be confident that she won't be forgotten anytime soon.  "Kaitlin had a desire to put Stony Brook on the map," Comito said.  And that's exactly what she did.

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