Jake Leahy still waiting for his chance to prove himself in 4th year at Syracuse

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Dan Leahy still remembers the day his son, Jake Leahy, called him one Sunday. In the spring of 2017, his freshman year at Syracuse, Leahy told his dad he had injured his shoulder. Again.Two days later, Leahy met with a Syracuse orthopedic specialist about a year removed from a prior shoulder surgery. The doctor said that almost a year of training and rehabilitation were wasted. He even said Leahy might never play soccer again.But that wasn’t an answer Leahy and his father were willing to accept. They sought a second opinion from a different doctor two days later, then Thursday. That doctor recommended a special procedure, but Leahy would be sidelined for another year.Leahy came to Syracuse hoping for a chance to start in net, but injuries caused his first competitive game action in over two years to come in 2018 for Syracuse FC. All of the sacrifices Leahy’s family made to ensure he’d develop into a Division I collegiate goalkeeper from daily road trips to top goalkeeping coaches led to this.Now finally healthy, he’s still waiting for that chance. Head coach Ian McIntyre is giving Leahy, as well as teammate and current positional rival Christian Miesch, an opportunity to compete for the starting job as Syracuse’s (2-1-3, 0-0-1 Atlantic Coast) first-choice goalkeeper.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“This guy has been through it all,” senior and teammate John-Austin Ricks said. “He came in injured, came back, got injured again. The adversity this guy has overcome is unbelievable. We want him to be out there every second because he’s been through so much.”When Leahy began training with the New York Red Bulls youth academy at 13 years old, his schedule wasn’t like an average middle schooler. To make 8:00 p.m. training sessions in Florham Park,New Jersey,Leahy’s mom, Diane, would drive him about 70 miles north from their home in Brick.Leahy would do homework, eat dinner and study in the car en route to training. When the session was over, Dan, who worked at Teterboro Airport at the time, stopped by after work to see Leahy train and drive him home back to Brick.Three days a week, Leahy trained with goalkeeping coach Andrew Sparkes, who now coaches the goalies with Southampton F.C. in the English Premier League. Leahy and his dad wouldn’t get home until almost 11 p.m. on school nights. He spent most of his weekends training in Newark, a drive that sometimes took 90 minutes.“It’s a whirlwind,” Dan said. “It was a very big commitment for the whole family.”Once Leahy signed with Syracuse in February of 2016 — his senior year of high school — the 6-foot-4 goalkeeper suffered the first of two major shoulder injuries.Eva Suppa | Digital Design Editor“The position he plays, there was a specialized surgery that needed to be done,” Dan said. “That first doctor did a very good job, but it required something a little more sturdy.”Only that wasn’t the last surgery he’d receive. Leahy was able to return to full training that September, but wasn’t able to play in any official game action for the season. He sat and waited behind Hendrik Hilpert, a four-year starter at SU.The spring of 2017, now a freshman, his shoulder separated again. One doctor’s opinion wasn’t enough to satisfy Leahy or his family, but the second opinion provided a chance for Leahy to finally get the specialized surgery required.At the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, Leahy went under the surgeon’s knife for a Latarjet procedure, Dan said, often used for rugby players with shoulder injuries.“They moved one of the tendons over the top of the shoulder joint to hold it in place,” Dan said.He was ready to start round two of rehabilitation, which Leahy described as “dull.” Once he was cleared to begin the training, he trained three times a day, five days a week in Manley Field House.“You do really low-weight exercises, it’s mind-numbing,” Leahy said. “You go in and it’s just plugging away. Resistance bands, two pounds, dull exercises.”After his redshirt season with the first injury, Leahy still wasn’t healthy for his freshman season to backup Hilpert again. The summer of 2018 was Leahy’s first game action since high school. He walked out onto the pitch at Chuck Wilbur Field for Syracuse FC — a team in the National Premier Soccer League that multiple SU players participated in to stay fit and practice during the offseason.Leahy played with former teammates Lukas Rubio and Djimon Johnson along with his roommate, Ricks. He said McIntyre often came to games to watch and support his players.“Going through that really made me evaluate what I really wanted to do,” Leahy said. “Spending that much time out, I could have said, ‘Screw it, soccer is not for me,’ but that time out made me want it more than ever.”Two years of his collegiate life lost in rehabilitation, Leahy was finally healthy for his junior season. But he’d only play if Hilpert got hurt. Hilpert never did. So Leahy had spent three years at Syracuse without seeing a minute of regular game action.“After his surgery was a turning point,” Ricks said. “He saw it as the next chapter. His attitude changed a lot. He was in there three times a day doing everything he possibly could.”Last spring, with Hilpert graduating, the starting job should have been his. He was the only experienced returner, but Leahy said that in March he heard McIntyre might be bringing in keeper competition. Enter Miesch, who arrived in Syracuse in August and now is competing for the job.Leahy didn’t start the season opener at then-No. 13 Georgetown, but took the field for the Orange’s home-opener three days later against Binghamton.What started perilously — the Orange conceded the first goal — ended in victory. For the first time, Leahy was the No. 1 keeper. Even if the job is still up in the air going forward, and Miesch has started the last two games, Leahy said it’s “his job to lose.”And if he’s not the starter at Syracuse, Leahy said he’ll graduate in May. Whether it’s at Syracuse or elsewhere for graduate school, he’s still got multiple years of eligibility left.“It’s waiting, waiting, waiting, and when you finally get your chance, it’s the best thing in the world,” Leahy said. “I’m not really satisfied until I’m the starting goalkeeper here.” Comments Published on September 19, 2019 at 12:06 am Contact Anthony: amdabbun@syr.edulast_img

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