August 1st, 2020 was a date the top rising juniors in the country had highlighted, as it marked the day collegiate programs could officially serve them scholarship offers, and in turn, players were able to announce their verbal commitments. Leah Stecker is one of those elite national talents.
The Morristown-Beard High School standout wasted little time choosing her NCAA home. On August 4th Stecker accepted an offer to Penn State University of the College Hockey America Conference.
Stecker’s commitment accents a 2019-2020 season filled with successes and accolades, following a scholastic campaign in which she led Morristown-Beard to a state championship, while landing New Jersey Player of the Year honors.
“Leah has been the most noticeable player on the ice in every game she’s played against other New Jersey teams this season,” Morristown-Beard Head Coach Bruce Driver, told the Shore Hockey Report. “She is a highly skilled and dynamic player who has driven our offense.”
Stecker Succeeding Outside Her Comfort Zone
Though she has spent her AAA youth career in the defensive end, most recently with the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers 19U women’s program, Driver – a 1995 Stanley Cup Champion with the New Jersey Devils – has provided Stecker the freedom to take a larger role up front with the Crimson. In her sophomore season the Randolph, NJ native was penciled in as the top line center, a position in which she flourished,
“There honestly was no conversation (about moving Leah out of her comfort zone to a forward position). I don’t believe in putting undue pressure on young players, to feel like they need to carry the load,” said Driver. “The coaching staff merely gives all players the guidance in practice to work on their skills and become creative offensive players.”
With the confidence of her teammates and coaches, Stecker led the crusaders in scoring with 36 points on 16 goals and 20 assists over 27 games.
Stecker was at her best in the state playoffs, logging six points, including five goals, in three NJSIAA Tournament victories. The Randolph, NJ resident delivered a hat trick in the 6-2 semifinals win over Oak Knoll, and lit the lamp twice more in the finals in 3-0 triumph over Summit.
A New Jersey Connection at Penn State
Stecker committed to Penn State for the 2022-23 season, and will join a program headed by Jeff Kampersal, who ranks sixth in career victories among active NCAA Division I women’s coaches.
Kampersal came to the Nittany Lions in 2017-18, after 21 seasons with Princeton University, where he was a three-time East Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, and led his club to Ivy League Championships in 2006 and 2016.
In Stecker, Kampersal will get a highly competitive player with great skating ability, according to Driver.
“(Leah Stecker) is a tremendous skater with an effortless stride. She is fast even though it doesn’t look like speed is a part of her game. Her ability to accelerate and change directions sets her out above the rest, and her size helps her protect puck once she enters scoring areas,” Driver added.
In a 2019-20 season that was abbreviated due to COVID-19, the Nittany Lions finished fourth in the CHAC with an overall record of 13-15-2.
When Stecker returns to Morristown-Beard for her junior season, she will enter the year with 73 career points (41g, 32a).