Roses are blooming after Leskauskas returns ‘home’

By Rich Fisher | Correspondent

St. Rose High School’s Julianne Leskauskas battles for the ball against Mater Dei’s Nora Stewart John Oct. 1 in Wall Township. John Blaine photo

Julianne Leskauskas recalled the fall 2017, when she would attend St. Rose of Belmar girls’ soccer games and just felt something was missing as she sat on the sidelines.

As a freshman, the Brielle resident collected 21 goals and nine assists for the Purple Roses, helping them to a 10-7 season. But when Leskauskas’ club program, the Player Development Academy, joined their boys’ program at the academy soccer level, Julianne was forced to decide between PDA or St. Rose.

Most academy-level programs prohibit their players from competing in high school as they want them on their team year-round. It offers top-flight coaching and competition; but the trade-off is playing with teammates you barely know as opposed to your school classmates.

“I’m really close with my coach for PDA, and he really wanted me to do academy,” the junior midfielder said. “So after my freshman year, I decided to make the move. The level of soccer was definitely super high and super quick. You train three times a week. The coaching was good, but I missed my high school team so much.”

Thus, Leskauskas returned to St. Rose High School this season. Making the decision easier is that the PDA girls withdrew from academy level after just one year; but Leskauskas was returning to the Roses either way. That did not totally surprise coach Zack Savacool.

“Saint Rose is a smaller school; all the students know each other and it creates a very tight-knit environment,” he said. “Playing for your school with all of your friends, and in front of all the rest of your friends, is just a great experience, one that is very tough to pass up. We are extremely lucky to have her back.”

Leskauskas feels lucky to be back.

“It’s just super exciting because I’m back with my friends. I missed them a lot,” she said. “It’s a really welcoming, competitive, fun atmosphere.”

It’s also a winning atmosphere, as St. Rose’s 6-1 record is its best start to a season since going 8-0-1 in 2013. Leskauskas’ return has provided a major impact, as she leads the team with 16 goals. She has scored in every game, recorded four hat tricks and had two goals and two assists in an Oct. 1 win over Mater Dei.

“We have many talented players this year, enough that this team would have been very good anyway,” Savacool said. “But having Jules back gives us the potential to be great. She has inspired the players around her with her intensity and has given them cause to raise their game to a new level knowing that this year, everything is in their reach.

“Adding to that, she’s just a great kid. All of the players hang out after practice and get along. You see it on the field, they maintain a positive attitude and work hard every game.”

Leskauskas gives ample credit to her teammates for the Purple Roses strong start; as her faith helps instill her modesty. A Catholic school student since kindergarten, she is a member of St. Denis Parish, Manasquan.

“I’ve been through a lot of tough times in my life; you always turn back to God at one point,” she said. “And going to Catholic school, you find really great people, really great teachers. It’s just a great community.”

It is also a thriving community at St. Rose when it comes to girls soccer.

“In terms of scoring, Jules has been most dangerous in the open field after our team creates situations where she is able to receive or win the ball and then run at the opposition’s back line,” Savacool said. “She has the speed and talent to beat her defender and then the calmness to finish the chance. Jules is also a very hard worker.”

She and her coach are quick to point out that Leskauskas is surrounded by a strong support system.

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