By Rodrigo Verney, May 16 2022—
One of the biggest names in University of Calgary sports the last year was the Dinos alumna, Montana Leonard. The soccer star added another accomplishment to her long list after being named Canada West Women’s Athlete of the Year. The decision was a no-brainer after considering every record she broke during her years with the Dinos, including an impressive 36 goals during the regular season. Her effort has paid off, as the star player earned a chance to play for the Launceston United Soccer Club in Australia.
Coming out of a strong senior year, Leonard finished her amazing career with the Dinos by breaking yet another Canada West record by scoring 17 goals. It doesn’t stop there either, as she did so in just 12 regular-season games — two away from the normal conference season. Her ability and skills remained unmatched during her university years. It was a matter of time before a professional team picked her up. The question was which one, rather than whether it would happen.
Fortunately for them, Leonard knew she wanted to play for a professional team much before offers were on the table. The young superstar previously told the Gauntlet that she knew she would be a professional soccer player from a young age. As it is for every professional player, her drive to achieve this goal motivated her to wish to leave it all on the field game after game. From playing the 13 games in her rookie season to breaking Canada West records on a regular basis, Leonard went from underrated to undeniable.
During her five-season Dino’s career, it was made evident that she was on her way to shining in the big leagues. Leading the Dinos to a 48-9-11 total record in Canada West play, Leonard displayed her incredible drive and leadership skills. Taking the team to victory a total of 57 times. Leonard even had a taste of the championship after finishing as the national runner-up in 2019.
“This is the next step for Montana and one in which I expect her to excel,” said former Dinos Women Soccer Coach Troye Flannery in an interview with Calgary Sun.
She deservedly landed a spot on the Launceston United Soccer Club. This is a team with a lot of winning history. They competed in the Women’s Super League in 2021 where they made a deep run. The team won the 2020 Women’s Northern Championships League title, which was expected given the depth in the defense and strong offensive finishers, which will only benefit from Leonard’s inclusion.
The Launceston United Soccer Club wrapped their season last year with eight wins. This great number could be explained by the competitiveness of the league. A factor that also rendered their seven losses and six ties. However, the record insured 30 points that put them in the top three of the eight-team league. A solid performance that is expected to be beaten this season beginning in March. Adjusting to this new competition and team chemistry can be hard. Both the league and the team are on another level from varsity soccer. Luckily, so is Leonard.
Launceston will become a stepping stone to her career. The Dinos striker will spread her wings much further than the Australian scene, as she is capable of. The team chemistry seems to be building up as they have begun scrimmage and training.
“I’m really enjoying getting to know the girls and meeting new people and the club’s obviously helping me to move across the world and get another soccer experience,” said Leonard in a The Examiner interview.
The fans aren’t the only ones who saw her career develop, of course. Her former coaching staff and teammates are static for her evolution and fully expect her to grow even more throughout her career.
“I don’t believe we have heard the last of Leonard” said Coach Flannery.
Her new teammates share the sentiment. This includes the fellow rookie Ellie La Monte who defended and acknowledged her skills in training and practice.
“We’d both come into the team and had key roles and losing her had a big impact but I think the girls have adjusted quite well.” said La Monte in an interview with The Examiner.
Unfortunately, one of the most important attributes in professional sport is luck. The ability to remain healthy is needed to partake in any physical activity. The young midfielder played her first thirty minutes before a season-ending ACL injury. This ligament causes trouble for pro athletes of every level. Knee injuries are hard to bounce back from, primarily because there are a lot of important ligaments and soft tissue that pass through a small area. Hence, it becomes prone to injury more often than not.
As Leonard already came into the league to fill a significant role, her absence will be felt. The coaches will have to adapt the schemes to fill the void she will leave for now. However, in situations like this, the most important topic is the player’s health. Montana returned to Canada to operate her ACL and is now recovering well. Her teammates continue to provide support via social media. La Monte went on to say that losing a talented player like Montana was a “big adjustment.”
Montana’s differential isn’t in her scoring skills and her natural talent. It’s in her mindset, her will, and her drive. The Dino prodigy will return from this minor setback as playing professional soccer isn’t an opportunity given to her, it’s the goal she worked so hard towards. Every Dinos fan will know the name Montana Leonard, be that from reading it at the top of every record list or from watching her play. For now, all she has to do is rest. The U of C community wishes her a speedy recovery.