Denfeld News

October 13, 2011
Duluth News Tribune

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 equate heart.

“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 Leah.’

“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 chances.

“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 experience.

“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.”

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