One-on-one with Jaclyn Leto '16
This week, The Dartmouth spoke with the women’s lacrosse co-captain Jaclyn Leto ’16. Leto is a senior standout, garnering unanimous All-Ivy League First Team honors in both her sophomore and junior seasons. In Saturday’s season opener against the University of Massachusetts Lowell, she became the 17th Big Green player to score her 100 career goals. On Tuesday, she was named to the watch list for the Tewaaraton Award, given annually to the most outstanding American college lacrosse player.
Prior to Saturday’s game, did you know that you were close to breaking the 100-goal mark?
JL: No, I actually didn’t. I knew I was close at the end of last season, but I kind of forgot about it because I was thinking about that game. I found out when they announced it.
Do you pay attention at all to individual milestones like that?
JL: No, I think after last season, when we kind of struggled and went 3-11, I personally had a good season, but it doesn’t really mean anything when you’re as a team not doing well. My only focus this year is making sure as a team we are doing well and accomplishing everything we are capable of because we have a really good, young team.
You opened last season with nine consecutive losses before rebounding at the end of the season. How did you stay positive during that stretch, and how did you turn things around?
JL: It’s just having faith in your preparation and who you are as a team. We’re a really close group every year, and we knew last year we were struggling, but we also knew we were capable of doing so much more. We just wanted to end the season as positively as possible, and I think no one really gave up, which is an awesome characteristic of that team which has carried over into this season — finishing it out and getting the most out of it.
The team is making the trek to California this season in addition to the annual trip to Florida. Do long trips like that put a strain on the team or are you accustomed to it?
JL: I think we’re used to it. We go to Florida every year, which is awesome because it’s one of the most competitive games of the season. The University of Florida is a really awesome team, and so we’re lucky even to just get the chance to play them. The University of Southern California will be fun. We’ve never been to California as a team, so it’ll be different.
You guys have a very rookie-heavy roster in 2016. How are the ’19s doing, and do they affect team dynamics?
JL: They’re amazing. They’re such a fun, funny freshman class, and they’ve been bonding to the program so well. They work so hard and they’re such an athletic group, so they actually push everyone else and have made us so much better. It’s great to see them on the field because they add a lot of passion, speed, and excitement to the game.
How has the lacrosse program changed in your four years at Dartmouth?
JL: I think every year is different, but the underlying values of the program have stayed the same. It’s fun to see the team identity come every year, and this year, because it’s a young team, it’s really exciting. It will be fun to see how this year is different from the rest.
How would you describe the program’s underlying values?
JL: I think something we focus on heavily is tradition. Our coach has been here for 24 seasons, so she kind of ingrains that in us — the green pride and tradition, all the years and all the alumni who have come before us, playing for them and playing for that tradition. That’s something we think about a lot when we prepare for games.
In high school you played lacrosse and soccer. What was it that drew you to those two in particular, and why did you continue lacrosse in college?
JL: I love speed and competitiveness and I love playing team sports. I actually started playing soccer first. Then I started playing summer lacrosse and kind of got hooked, started going through the recruiting process, found Dartmouth and fell in love with it.
Lacrosse is fast and competitive on one hand, but on the other hand, women’s lacrosse is less contact-oriented than men’s. Do you think that makes it more strategic?
JL: Definitely. We watch a lot of film and do a lot of scouting, trying to utilize those aspects of the game — the intelligence of the game. We make strategic game plans for each game depending on who we’re playing. I think most sports do that, but because there’s not a lot of hitting, it has to do with the game plan and the plays we’re running, the small skills that are embedded within the game.
With two wins in the books and 13 games to go, what can we expect from the women’s lacrosse team this season?
JL: We have really high goals which I think we definitely can meet. The most important one for our team is returning to the Ivy Tournament and having a really good run in the Ivies. Personally, I want to play my last season as hard as I can, and I would love to bring the Ivy Tournament to Dartmouth and win it here.
You are one of the only Ivy League players on the Tewaaraton Award watch list. What does that mean to you?
JL: I actually found out about that last night — I was super excited. My freshman year, there were two girls on my team, Courtney Bennett ’13 and Kristen Giovanniello ’14, who were on it. They are two of the players who I’ve always looked up to, not only as unbelievable lacrosse players, but as hardworking, great people and great teammates. If a freshman now could say that about me in four years, I’d be really happy. Not just to be on the list, but to follow in the footsteps of teammates like that is really cool.