Without question; Meghan McNicholas-Leggett set the standard for team players

“It really helped my mental toughness,” she said. “There was no separation between the sexes or the ages. When you get a little bit older, it comes into play. When I played at DePaolo, I could tell that boys didn’t like to play against a girl. It wasn’t that I was more of a threat than anybody else, but you could tell.”

McNicholas never shied away from a challenge, whether it was batting as a switch hitter in a crucial at bat or helping her soccer team overcome an injury to an all-state teammate. That might be why every program improved when she entered the lineup. The soccer team returned to the top of their conference. The softball team captured another state title.

But it was on the hard court that McNicholas really made her presence known. She stepped into the basketball lineup as a sophomore point guard and by the midpoint of her senior year had established herself as the school’s all-time assist leader.

“She took charge of the team, and she distributed the ball well, but she was a better shooter than she gave herself credit for,” said Piazza. “Joe Daddio would always try to get her to take more shots, but Meghan was the type of kid that would rather make that great pass than take the shot.”

She could dribble with both hands. She could pass, and she could see the floor. She was the leading defender and worked her way up to co-captain as a senior. As a sophomore and junior, McNicholas’ teams lost in the Class LL championship game. It wasn’t until they captured the title as a senior that McNicholas was finally happy.

She scored the first four baskets in the championship game, and Southington rallied to a 65-51 over Glastonbury to break a three-year title drought.

“To me, if you don’t make the state championship it’s only an okay season,” she said. “We lost two years in a row in the finals to Bristol Eastern, and that was huge. I remember walking out to the center of the court at Central with Debbie Suess, and I said that there was no way in the world that we were leaving with a loss. I think we all knew it before we even stepped onto the court.”

McNicholas’ efforts earned her a spot in Southington lore on a short list of athletes that have won state titles in multiple sports, but it also brought her individual attention. When news of the Southington guard reached college scouts, they began to pour into the high school gym. They followed her in summer leagues and watched her compete on Junior Olympic teams.

By the end of her sophomore year, a handful of colleges had already shown interest. By the start of her senior season, Assumption College had won the bidding war. The Greyhounds offered McNicholas a full scholarship, and the Southington guard embraced the challenge.

“There were a couple of schools that I had offers from, but I knew that I was going to play at Assumption,” she said. “I knew that it was close enough that my parents could come and see me play. I liked the school when I went up to visit it, and I wanted everybody to be able to come up and watch.”

It was worth the trip for Southington fans. McNicholas still ranks among the top 20 in games played (105) for the Greyhounds. As a senior, she collected 104 assists including a 10-assist performance against Quinnipiac. Her 320 career assists still ranks No. 8 all time at the school.

It was no surprise that the Southington Sports Hall of Fame selection committee chose McNicholas to be inducted into the local hall of fame. On Thursday, Nov. 14, she will be honored in an induction ceremony at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville.

“It’s totally humbling. That’s the perfect word for it, and it’s pretty neat,” she said. “I’m honored. I think it’s a big deal, and I worked really hard for it.”

Nobody would disagree.

To reserve tickets, contact Jim Verderame at (860) 628-7335. To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@southingtonobserver.com.

Photo courtesy of Assumption College Meghan McNicholas was a three-sport athlete for the Lady Knights before earning a full scholarship to Assumption College.

Photo courtesy of Assumption College

Meghan McNicholas was a three-sport athlete for the Lady Knights before earning a full scholarship to Assumption College.

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