IUP’s LeDonne adjusting to life of college soccer

Freshman Cassidy LeDonne drives the ball in an early-season matchup for the Crimson Hawks. (Daniel Kirby/ The Penn)

Slippery Rock, Robert Morris, Duquesne and Youngstown State universities, along with other colleges, were among choices for freshman Cassidy LeDonne to continue her soccer career.  Indiana University of Pennsylvania became her top pick not only for the on-the-field action, but also off.

“I really liked the coach and I just felt comfortable knowing I was going to a school where my sister was at,” LeDonne said.

The right-footed center  back on the defensive line at IUP has stepped onto campus, declaring her major to be accounting.

The first week went well for her.

“It’s weird for me not to have the same class every day like I did in high school,” she said.

“Sometimes I would forget which class I was supposed to be going to and end up in the wrong building.”

LeDonne was part of the Franklin Regional High School girl’s soccer team, which was a two-time Region 1 champion.

As a center back and center midfielder, she accomplished individual awards, including being a three-time All-Section Player and two-time All-Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League player in PA-West.

“My best accomplishment so far in my soccer career was being ranked No. 1 team in the nation going up to the 2014 U.S. Youth National Soccer Tournament with my soccer club team, Beadling SC Thunder.”

Not only is she still part of Beadling, which is one of the best soccer clubs in the nation, she has been involved in many other club teams outside of her high school team.

“I wouldn’t be the soccer player I am today without my personal soccer coach, Joenal Castma,” she said. “He is one of the greatest people I know, and he has taught me so much – both on and off the field.”

A big transition for LeDonne was going from a high school level to college level playing.

“The intensity of the game and the speed are a lot faster in college,” she said. “Everyone here plays well and knows what to do on the field.”

With 14 new players, including LeDonne, IUP has a chance to rebuild its team. This is the time for upperclassmen to step up on the field and also help the new players.

IUP will play Lock Haven University as its home opener game Sept. 4.  LeDonne said she has a good friend who attends Lock Haven and plays on its soccer team.

With the “W” in her mind, LeDonne is going to have to work on her biggest weakness on the field: learning to read a forward.

When a forward comes at a defender full speed trying to score, it is hard as a defender to figure out which way the forward is going to go.

If IUP wins its first game, it will bring the team closer to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament. Last season, the team did not make it to the playoffs.  This was the first time in 10 years this has happened.

LeDonne, however, said that she has confidence about this season.

“I expect us to do well during our season,” she said. “My goal is to help the team go further this year than they did last year.”

Her IUP career goal is to win the PSAC tournament at least once before graduating.

Along the way, LeDonne has a pregame ritual she always sticks to.  She drinks Gatorade and eats a Nutri-Grain bar before every game.  As she steps out of her car, she sticks a Winter Green Life Saver in her mouth and heads to the field.

“I don’t exactly know why I do that. However, I now have to do it before every game as a good luck ritual,” she said.