By Matt Schwab
Special to Mustang Soccer
Julia Leontini, by all accounts, is a fantastic soccer player, but what makes her even more special to the Mustang Soccer family is her humility.
The Stanford commit is a fast-rising star who puts the team first. People root for players like that.
“She’s an incredible player and person and very modest,” said Chad Harper, who has coached Leontini the past three years with Mustang.
Moreover, Leontini’s dedication has people dreaming big about her soccer future.
“I’ve had parents and teachers and coaches tell me that she’s out there every morning in the fog during the winter before school shooting the ball and juggling and running,” an impressed Harper said. “She’s constantly putting the work in. That’s why I have so much confidence in her that she’s going to end up being a pro player or a national team player or something because she does everything right off the field out of the team dynamic,” he continued.
With Team USA’s Women’s World Cup championship in France still fresh in everyone’s mind, it’s easy to imagine someone like Leontini, a 2018-19 ECNL All-American and the Northwest Conference Player of the Year for her age, playing on the biggest stage someday. Her actions show she is willing to do what it takes.
How modest is Julia?
“You’d never know she is the player she is,” Harper says of Leontini, an incoming Monte Vista High senior. “No one even knows she’s going to Stanford unless someone else says it. That’s why a lot of coaches, a lot of people, are rooting for her is because she’s so modest.”
“Being humble is a big thing for me,” Leontini says. “I definitely am not someone who’s just going to share everything about my life and try to brag about everything. My parents are like that too and I think I’ve gotten that from them.”
A straight-A student, Leontini can play effectively at any field position. She is thrilled about the prospects of joining the mighty Stanford program.
“I’m so excited,” she says. “It’s still a year away but seeing all the players and all the posts and stuff, I just want to be there and compete with such great athletes and students and stuff like that.”
Leontini says she first met current Stanford associate head coach Hideki Nakada at a freshman camp and started the communication process. She went on a visit to Stanford in April of her freshman year, but the conversation dropped off in the summer. Then things changed early in her sophomore year.
“He called me up, like ‘We’re really interested. We want to give you a spot and stuff,’ and then that’s when I committed. … I really want to go to a school where I can challenge myself in academics and soccer, and Stanford’s always been a dream. It worked out pretty nicely.”
Regarding kicking soccer balls early in the morning, Leontini says the idea of extra workouts came from Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe.
“He said if you want to get yourself better just go and hit the ball against the wall, and so I’ve been trying to do that a lot,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll train with my teammates and then I’ll also do strength-and-conditioning stuff with a trainer (at the gym).”
Leontini has also had many fantastic moments at Monte Vista, which has won the last two CIF Regional titles with a team composed primarily of Mustang 2001 and 2002 players. She even scored a dream goal from 40 yards out in a 3-1 win over arch-rival Carondelet her sophomore year in league play.
“It was just like insane. We were all so excited. It’s so competitive. I love that moment,” she recalled happily of the blockbuster goal.
Of course, Mustang Soccer has had a profound influence on her career. She feels thankful to be able to sharpen her game against some of the best players around.
“I have so much to be thankful for with Mustang. Every coach I’ve had there has always supported me 100 percent and wanted me to get better and taken the time to push me and help me develop as a player,” she says. “I’ve met some of my best friends through the club. There’s so many memories.”
No doubt Harper has had a great view of Leontini's soccer brilliance as a great finisher who has tremendous timing on tackles. He describes her as someone who does whatever it takes to score and stop the opponent from scoring.
“She plays with no fear,” he says.
And she does it all with class -- even in the Danville fog.