Franklin Regional's Cassidy LeDonne leaves IUP with accolades
IUP women's soccer standout Cassidy LeDonne never has been fond of taking short cuts.
The 2014 Franklin Regional graduate lives just a mile from the Crimson Hawks soccer pitch, but when practice is over, the senior defender takes the three-mile scenic route to get back home.
“That's one of the things that I do, and if I'm not putting in extra time, someone else is,” said LeDonne, who will graduate this spring with a degree in applied mathematics and minors in computers and criminology. “I was always known on my team as the person who runs a lot and pushes it to the max. I felt like as a captain it was my job to set the bar high so the incoming freshman would see that this is what it has to be.”
LeDonne set the bar high, all right. She finished her career as a Crimson Hawk by being named first-team All-Pennsylvania Athletic Conference. She was named first-team all-Atlantic Region by the United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division II and also was named to the Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-Atlantic Region second team.
“There's no doubt in my mind, in my opinion, the first year she started for us I knew she was going to be recognized,” IUP women's soccer coach Ade Heder said. “In my opinion, I think she's been the best defender in the PSAC — and for a long time.
“I've never seen a defender that good. I'm not saying this because I'm her coach. There's no doubt in my mind that she's the best defender I've ever coached. She deserves to be the best defender.”
Heder has a knack for spotting talent, and he had his eye on LeDonne throughout her playing days at Franklin Regional.
A former Kiski Area gym teacher and boys soccer coach, Heder could be spotted taking in Kiski Area/Franklin Regional soccer matches when the Panthers visited for a section match.
“She could have gone to any Division I school and played,” Heder said. “She's an amazing center back. Her foot skill is amazing. We were lucky to have her here.”
Heder is right. LeDonne had received interest from D-I schools such as Robert Morris, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure and even looked at Pitt toward the end of her recruiting period before deciding IUP was the best fit for her.
“In high school, I came into the recruiting process late because I was the first one in my family to think about playing a sport in college,” LeDonne said. “I came into it a little later compared to most college athletes, and I just found IUP was a fit for what I wanted for my major.”
IUP was a great fit all the way around.
LeDonne became the first defender in Heder's 17 seasons as the Crimson Hawks' coach to be named first-team all-PSAC.
LeDonne's postseason honors didn't come easy, and some might say they came late. Because of injuries, she wasn't able to put together a complete season and was passed over for the yearly honors. It took LeDonne a few years to adjust to the physicality of the game at the D-II level. Despite the learning curve, she became just the second IUP freshmen to start all 19 games.
Even as a defender, LeDonne can't help but get in on the action up top when she gets the chance. She's been known to dribble the ball from the back end and go for the score, which might drive some coaches crazy, but Heder encouraged it. He said LeDonne could play anywhere on the field, and at times his star defender played like it.
“The last two years, I tried to convince her to play midfielder or forward because she can score,” Heder said. “I give her a lot of freedom to take the ball and go. “ Which is exactly what LeDonne did in IUP's 1-0 win over PSAC rival Shippensburg in early September. LeDonne knocked in a header off a corner kick late in the first half against the Raiders.
She helped steady a defense that gave up 0.78 goals per game and logged eight shutouts.
“You can't win a game without defense,” LeDonne said. “When I step on the field, I want to play just not for myself but for the team.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.