The following article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse.
by Sean Burns
Contrary to popular belief, Kevin Leveille can do more than just
convert passes to the crease into goals. His game has many
It’s just that he’s so good at that particular one.
“Chucking it inside to Kevin Leveille is a cheat play,” Trevor Tierney, the former two-time Team USA goalie, tweeted as he watched Leveille contort his stick and body to score during the nationally televised U.S. Blue vs. White scrimmage Jan. 26.
“He’s Pannell’s Mock, Danowski’s Greer, Crotty’s Quinzani and Stanwick’s Bocklet,” added Michigan assistant Ryan Danehy, referencing some of the great recent college feeder-finisher pairings.
Leveille’s proficiency as a finisher earned him a spot on the 30-man roster that continued on the road to Denver, the penultimate roster cut before the final 23 players are selected in July. It’s far from his first trip down this road with Team USA. He has been in the running for every team since 2002, even traveling to Manchester, England, in 2010 as an alternate.
But in this cycle, the U.S. team appears to be building more around its talent on attack than the midfield-dominated group that took home gold four years ago.
Leveille is poised to be one of the key players in its title defense — especially after Team USA struggled to generate offense from the alleys in an 11-9 exhibition loss to Canada at the 2012 Duel in Denver. It exposed a glaring weakness in the American game that Leveille — who played hockey growing up — could rectify.
“That particular spot with the inside game, we were missing,” Team USA offensive coordinator Jeff Tambroni said. “Kevin not only fulfills that spot, but he can do other things in and around the offense, and his understanding makes him that much more valuable. You put that chess piece in the middle of the board, and he just generates such attention.”
For those just beginning to recognize Leveille’s deft inside scoring touch, he’s been doing it for quite a few years. After starring as a three-time All-American at UMass, Leveille has played nine seasons and 103 games in Major League Lacrosse. His 262 career goals rank second all-time in MLL history.
During Leveille’s professional career, which included stops in Boston and Ohio before he landed with the Rochester Rattlers in 2012, he found he fit in better when others handled the ball.
“It really came from playing with guys like Conor Gill and Mark Millon,” Leveille said. “I’ve played with some of the best attackmen of all time, and their role was to create the offense. Mine was to find the open space. I’ve kind of been pigeonholed into this crease, off-ball guy, and I can do other things well. But with this U.S. group and players like Rob Pannell and Steele Stanwick, I can sync right up with them.”
That mentality, one that certainly endears the veteran attackman to the Team USA coaching staff as much as his soft hands and scoring ability, also goes back years.
“He was great for us in all aspects — shooter, feeder, set-up guy, leader,” UMass coach Greg Cannella said. “Kevin never really cared much about personal accolades. Whatever role they’re grooming him for, he’s going to fit the bill.”
Leveille grew up near Albany, N.Y, between the sport’s Long Island and central New York hotbeds. He played hockey, but chose to focus on lacrosse at Albany Academy. His father, George, was instrumental in sport’s growth locally and nationally, organizing the popular Lake Placid Classic. His brother, Mike, won an NCAA championship and the 2008 Tewaaraton Award at Syracuse.
With the support of his older brother, Mike Leveille played on the 2010 U.S. team as a swingman that could play midfield or attack. Roles would be reversed if Kevin makes it to Denver.
“He’s been such an influence on me as an athlete and a person,” said Mike Leveille, adding that Kevin emphasized he follow his own path with his decision to attend Syracuse. “It was tough four years ago, but he was there the whole way. I’m looking forward to being there and switching those roles and being able to support him and watch him do his best.”
But Kevin Leveille doesn’t want to talk about what it would mean to him if he finally gets to take the field at a world championship.
“It’s certainly humbling and kind of crazy to think about,” he said. “But at the end of the day, all that matters is that Team USA gets the gold.”
Spoken like a true finisher.