October 13, 2011
Denfeld's Hamm shares styles with star
By Rick Weegman
Leah Hamm shares more than just a similar name
with Mia Hamm.
Like the former U.S. national soccer star, the
Duluth Denfeld senior is a playmaker who also can put the ball in
the net and is an inspiration to her teammates.
“I see a lot of parallels there; it’s
a good fit,” Hunters coach Ron Weber said. “Leah, Mia.
They play a lot alike, and both provide a lot of leadership.”
Like the elder Hamm, who stands just 5-foot-5,
Denfeld’s diminutive standout doesn’t let her 5-2 stature
prevent her from excelling. That’s because height doesn’t
“I always play with heart; that’s
one of my best (traits),” Hamm said. “I’m always
telling the other girls to play with heart.”
Hamm leads Denfeld (9-3-3) into the Section 7A
playoffs, which open at 4 p.m. today with a first-round game against
Zimmerman at Public Schools Stadium. Whenever the season ends, it
will bring an end to a four-year varsity career that coincided with
the rise in the Hunters’ program.
“I remember we brought her up to Two Harbors
for her first game,” Weber said. “The varsity was struggling,
and we got Leah on the field and she immediately scored a goal.
I thought, ‘I think I’m going to keep her on varsity
because she’s good luck.’ We started calling her ‘Lucky
“But when you watched the game, she was
lucky because she always was in the right place at the right time.
That’s good soccer sense — she knows where the ball
is going and when to arrive at the goal.”
Hamm has eight goals and six assists, mostly to
teammate Emily DesMarais. That chemistry has been forged through
four years on the field together.
“Since we played together for so long, we
always know where each other is on the field,” DesMarais said.
Weber says Hamm has turned into more of a distributor
this season, creating matchup problems with slower defenders.
“She will take people on, which is what
we like because it creates problems,” he said. “She
can either beat you with the dribble or dish it to somebody else.
That’s how Emily scored most of her goals this year. They
work really well together.”
Hamm likely will have to continue her playmaking
skills in order for the Hunters to advance to the state tournament
for the first time since their lone berth in 2000. Denfeld, which
dropped from 7AA to 7A after appealing its classification earlier
this fall, received a No. 4 seed in the section behind Chisago Lakes
Area, Hermantown and Esko-Carlton. But the Hunters tied Chisago
Lakes 4-4 and beat Hermantown 8-4 so they remain confident of their
“I don’t think where we’re seeded
plays a big role,” Hamm said. “We know that we can compete
with all the teams in our section.”
And with 11 seniors, the Hunters have the necessary
“The experience is really nice, to have
girls who have played on varsity for more than a year,” Hamm
said. “They know what’s coming up.”