July 13, 2011
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Before her final season at Northwestern in 2010, Leigh Jakes had an opportunity that most people only dream of. The McDonough, Ga., native worked in the front office of the Chicago Red Stars as a player services and sponsorship intern. Less than one year later Jakes is back with the Red Stars, but this time in a very different role - as a starting defender.
"It's been refreshing to get back into competitive soccer after such a long off-season," said Jakes. "It took some adjusting to get my feet back underneath me and get used to the quicker pace but I'm excited to continue playing the game I love."
Jakes has appeared in eight games this season for the Red Stars, who have clinched the Women's Premier Soccer League Midwest - North division title and open the playoffs this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. The Red Stars head into the postseason with a +31 goal differential, including just four goals allowed on the season by Jakes and the dominant back line.
More exciting for the former 'Cat, though, is that she has been able to avoid the injuries that marked her NU career.
"The challenges that I faced with injuries at Northwestern helped me learn my body and how hard I can push myself," Jakes said. "As difficult as it was to stand on the sidelines and watch, it helped me learn soccer from a different perspective. I was able to really take what I learned from Coach Foster and her assistants and apply it to my game once I got back on the field."
Jakes appeared in 61 games for Northwestern, including 50 starts. She credits the Wildcats with helping prepare her for a professional soccer career.
"Northwestern challenges you, especially as a student-athlete," she said. "You're expected to perform at the highest level both on the field and in the classroom. The demands of NU made it easier to be able to step into the professional ranks."
Once the Red Stars wrap up their 2011 season, Jakes is hoping to continue her professional career overseas. But you never know when you might see her back on the pitch in the United States.
"Ideally I'd like to play in Germany or Australia," Jakes said. "Playing overseas can help me add a new dimension to my game. But Women's Professional Soccer is strong and thriving (in the U.S.) and it would be great to have the opportunity to come back and play at home."
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