Oct. 11, 2013
By Lee Oliver
A University of Connecticut alumnus has won a national field hockey championship Down Under as Lindsey Leck helped the Queensland Scorchers win the Australian Hockey League (AHL) title for the first time in eight years.
Leck was a standout on the UConn field hockey team from 2005-08 and was honored as Big East First Team selection in 2008 while earning Second Team honors in 2007. She was selected to the All-Mideast Region Team in each of her final two years at UConn.
Leck helped the Huskies to a 77-17 record during her four years in Storrs and the team won four conference championships over that span. Additionally UConn made four trips to the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back appearances in the National Semifinal in 2007 and 2008.
Queensland, the AHL’s perennial bridesmaids, beat arch nemesis Western Australia Diamonds in a dramatic tournament final in Hobart on October 5.
Following a scoreless 70 minutes, the undefeated Queensland side won 2-0 in a penalty shootout through goals to Ashlea Fey and Jodie Schulz and four saves by goalkeeper Audrey Smith.
Queensland had lost five of the previous seven AHL deciders, with its five straight grand final losses between 2006 and 2010 including four defeats to Western Australia.
It has been a long road from Leck’s home of Millstone, in Monmouth County, New Jersey to playing in one of the world’s top field hockey competitions.
The 26-year-old, a USA junior representative, played hockey for the University of Connecticut Huskies for four years.
And that’s almost where her hockey career ended.
“Basically if you don’t make the national team in the US there’s not many opportunities to continue to play, and definitely not at a highly competitive level,” Leck said.
“Essentially I was retired (from hockey) at 22. I came over (to Australia) for about three months to play and realized I missed it way too much, and I decided to come back and keep playing.”
After moving to Australia, Leck lived in Melbourne and sounded out playing for that state’s AHL side, the Victoria Vipers.
When her boyfriend Brad Howard, a former professional Australian Rules football player with the St Kilda Saints club, moved north to Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland, Leck followed.
“When I moved up to Queensland I decided that I would give it (representative hockey) a go and trialled for the team (Queensland Scorchers),” Leck said.
“I’ve always been highly competitive and wanting to play at the highest level that I possibly can, and I’m happy I’ve had the opportunity to continue to do so after I thought I wouldn’t play ever again.”
Now Leck, who debuted for the Scorchers last season, tackles the best players in Australia whose national team, nicknamed the Hockeyroos, is currently ranked number six in the world.
She plays as a midfielder alongside Australian internationals Teneal Attard, Jodie Schulz, Jordyn Holzberger, Kirstin Johnson, Bec Reuter, Audrey Smith and Hockeyroos captain Madonna Blyth in the Queensland team.
“The level of talent of the players here is amazing and I felt pretty lucky to make the team, especially with how many great players there are in Brisbane and Queensland,” Leck said.
“I’m so amazed at how humble the national team players are. Playing alongside them they don’t make you feel like you’re any different from the (Australian Hockeyroos) players they normally play with.
“They expect the same out of you as they would their national teammates, but they’re still encouraging and teach you along the way and I enjoy playing with them.”
Leck said the standard of the AHL was comparable to the US national championships.
“The AHL is definitely a higher level than the university system and I think it would be pretty comparable to the national championships that are played in the States,” she said.
“I’ve played in the equivalent tournament in the US and played against and with some of the national players over there.
“Fitness-wise it (the AHL) is somewhat similar and it’s a quick game, but I definitely think the skill level is a bit higher over here than what it is in the States.”
The former Allentown High School student says she is enjoying her hockey as much as the weather in Queensland, known as Australia’s “sunshine state”.
“I’m just happy that I’m still playing and I’ll keep going as long as my body will allow me to,” Leck said.
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