Each season, Gatorade recognizes one student-athlete from each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. who embodies its Player of the Year program’s three pillars: athletic production, academic achievement and exemplary character.
Each week during its Gatorade State Player of the Year selection process, USA TODAY surfaces one candidate who meets those criteria and deserves recognition as a serious Gatorade State Player of the Year contender.
Name: Samantha Leshnak
School: Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Sport: Girls Soccer
Athletic Production: Soccer rarely slows down for Samantha Leshnak. The Mount Notre Dame senior is taking some time off of school this week, but not for vacation. Leshnak is in Florida at a training camp with the U.S. Soccer Under-20 Women’s National Team. And Team USA will be in good shape in net if Leshnak can match her exploits from the 2014 fall season. The 5-foot-10 senior allowed just seven goals in 16 games, posting 11 shutouts this past season and leading Mount Notre Dame (10-4-3) to the Division I regional tournament semifinals.
Academic Achievement: Leshnak has maintained a B-plus average and will continue her soccer career at North Carolina in the fall.
Exemplary Character: In addition to donating her time as a youth soccer and volleyball instructor, Leshnak has volunteered locally with a homeless shelter and a food bank.