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NCAA Jul 02, 2024

Villanova women’s soccer adds graduate transfers Caitlyn Leffler and Olivia Neal

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova women’s soccer head coach Samar Azem and her staff announced the final pieces to her incoming 2024 class, with the addition of graduate transfers Caitlyn Leffler and Olivia Neal.

These additions bring the incoming class to 10 new Wildcats joining the roster in the 2024 season, three of those being transfers who all bring depth to the back line. Leffler comes in as a defender and forward while Neal suits up at defender, joining sophomore transfer goalkeeper Hannah Dickinson who joined the team in the spring.

Caitlyn Leffler | Graduate | Defender/Midfielder
Livingston, N.J. | Livingston HS | South Carolina

Leffler makes her way to the Main Line after spending the last four years at South Carolina where she was a four-year member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll. She was a part of a Gamecocks squad that made it to the NCAA second round each season she was with the team, won both the SEC Tournament and Conference Regular Season Co-Championship title in 2022 and made it to the Elite Eight in 2021. She battled injuries during her time in Columbia, suffering a season-ending injury 15 minutes into an SEC Tournament semifinals game that forced her to miss the entire 2021 season. She made 14 appearances with two starts in her time there, logging four shots with two on goal. She took to the pitch for the final minutes of the SEC Championship game against Alabama in 2022 and played eight minutes in the NCAA Tournament second-round game against Stanford in 2023.

Before college, Leffler was a member of the Players Development Academy from 2014-2020 and won an ECNL National Championship with the team in 2019. She was a first team All-County and All-Super Essex Conference player at Livingston High School, also earning second team All-State honors for New Jersey Girls Soccer in her senior season after coming back from an ACL injury.

She was a three-year member of the varsity soccer team, scoring four goals and adding three assists from center back in that time, before moving to the Girls Academy League and missing out on one year of high school soccer. She was a part of a North Jersey Section One, Group Four, Champion and Essex County Championship team in 2016, earning a spot on the All-Conference team.

She was on the high school honor roll all four years and was a member of National Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National Art Honor Society and National Business Honor Society. Leffler plans to pursue an MBA at Villanova.

On why she chose Villanova: “I chose Villanova because it offers a perfect balance of academic excellence and elite athletics. With its renowned academic programs and commitment to fostering a strong community, Villanova provides an environment where I believe I can challenge myself to grow not only as a student-athlete but also as a person.”

Azem on Leffler: “Caitlyn comes to us from a program consistently used to winning championships and has been a key leader and committed fully to that process. She’s a tough competitor who is gritty, fierce, and tenacious. She will be hard to beat and will add a solid dimension to our back line, as we continue to establish ourselves our program’s success defensively.”

Olivia Neal | Graduate | Defender
Wake Forest, N.C. | Heritage HS | Campbell

Neal comes to Villanova after a four-year career at Campbell, rejoining Azem who was her coach there in her first two seasons. She was an All-Big South Second Team selection as a junior in 2022 after missing her sophomore campaign due to injury. In three seasons on the pitch, she started in 38 of her 48 appearances, scoring 18 points on five goals and eight assists while landing 23 of her 39 shots on frame. In her senior season, she was second on the team with four assists and fourth in total minutes (1,237). She also logged a goal in the Big South Championship finals win against High Point during her freshman year.
Prior to Campbell, Neal was a 4A All-State and All-Region player at Heritage High School. She won a state championship in 2019 and was a member of the Math Honors Society and a North Carolina Scholar. She played club soccer with NCFC ECNL.

On why she chose Villanova: “I choose Villanova because of the people and their drive to be excellent every day. The care everyone had for each other and their welcomeness made me want to be a part of their family. The connections and close-knit community were truly captivating.”

Azem on Neal: “Olivia is a player who has a versatile and exciting background. She is an extremely dangerous wide player, who has pace and a threatening ability in 1v1 situations. She is a creative attacking player and will be an exciting player who brings a wealth of experience to Higgins.”

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