Allison Leone leaving her mark on the Hill

Senior goalkeeper Allison Leone kicks the ball down the field in the game against Evansville Sept. 3 at the WKU Soccer Complex. Leone is currently second in school history in all-time saves.

Casey Mccarthy

During her sophomore year of high school in Kennesaw, Georgia, Allison Leone said she remembers first starting to look at schools where she could extend her soccer career. Playing for Tophat Soccer Club of Atlanta at the time, a teammate approached her with some advice.

“At one club practice, she was like, ‘Allison, you should look at WKU,’” Leone said.

That player was Caitlin Hesse, an Atlanta resident, who graduated from WKU last year after playing four years for the Lady Toppers soccer team.

“I talked to the coaches and just fell in love,” Leone said.

Now in her senior season as goalkeeper for the Lady Toppers, Leone has been named Conference USA Goalkeeper of the Week three times in her career,  most recently on Sept. 25. This honor gives Leone the most individual awards for goalkeepers in program history, tying Amanda Buechel for most among all players.

Leone said she started playing soccer when she was around 3 years old in recreational soccer leagues in Georgia, but didn’t start playing goalkeeper until around the seventh grade.

“I played a couple of sports growing up, like I did swimming for a while, but soccer’s the only one I stuck with,” Leone said.

Leone came to WKU with a decorated career already. She played five years for Georgia’s Olympic Development Program, or ODP, team for five seasons alongside fellow Lady Topper, senior Bria Mosley. She also led her Tophat Club team to back-to-back Georgia State Cup Championships, coming up with vital penalty saves in both the semifinals and finals in 2013.

Mosley said Leone has always been a good teammate, ever since they played together for ODP.

“Allison is just a really good, genuine person,” Mosley said. “She’s very confident in herself and the team. She’s someone you can rely on, who will always have your back and support you.”

Leone has made an impressive mark since coming to WKU in 2014. Named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team her first season, she played the most minutes of any Lady Topper. She was named C-USA Goalkeeper of the Week two consecutive weeks her junior season, the only goalkeeper to do so, and was named Second Team All C-USA last year as well. Leone also sustained a 53-minute shutout streak as a junior from Sept. 8, 2016, against LSU, to Oct. 2, against North Texas.

She is third in career wins (33), career minutes played for goalkeepers (6,184) and career saves (280). She sits at second in career goals against average (0.99) and career shutouts (25). This season, Leone has 55 saves, three shutouts, and a 0.97 goals against average. Allison said she never expected to reach the level she has at WKU.

“I thought I was just going to play soccer,” Leone said. “But it’s really humbling. I’ve had so much help in front of me, I could not have done it without them.”

Senior defender Nahyo Jalajel has spent four years on the back line with Leone. Jalajel said the ride has been a pleasure as she recounted a moment from last season’s matchup with Rice.

“It was a rollercoaster,” Jalajel said. “We had both just hit the post, me and Allison, and we both did like a double take.”

Jalajel looks at Allison with wide eyes, the pair sharing a laugh recalling on the moment.

“I couldn’t have wanted a better goalkeeper,” Jalajel said as she hugged her teammate.

Head coach Jason Neidell said he can’t remember exactly what caught the program’s attention when recruiting Leone, but saID the first thing that catches your eye about her is her size. Neidell said she’s tall and long, with a big wingspan.

“She’s the kind of kid, when she takes a good angle in the goal, it looks like there’s nowhere to shoot,” Neidell said. “She’s been absolutely fantastic.”

Not only has she kept a Lady Topper team that struggles at times in games, Neidell explained that it is more than just her big saves, it’s her strong mentality and leadership. He describeD her as mature and focused.

“She’s actually got a very cool, even temperament,” Neidell said. “We’ve only had a handful of goalkeepers here, but she’s certainly among the best we’ve had.”

Leone explained the biggest lesson she’s learned at WKU is how much hard work can pay off.

“You pick something that you want to revise or you need to work on and you just really stick your mind to it and work at it every single day,” Leone said. “You’ll see results.”

Leone said she isn’t sure where the next step is for her after her career at WKU, but considers playing recreational leagues again.

“I’m majoring in finance, so maybe going to get my MBA,” Leone said. “We’ll see. Maybe a new chapter of my life.”

Reporter Casey McCarthy can be reached at (270)-929-7795 and [email protected].