Cal's Leer impresses with singing voice and hat trick
By JB Long, special to Pac-12.com
Her performance was captivating; worthy of the ovation it elicited from the Sunday crowd at Edwards Stadium in Berkeley.
But the fans hadn't gathered to see Grace Leer sing, and Cal's redshirt sophomore forward didn't plan on that being her only highlight, proud though she was of her rendition of the national anthem.
"I'll just say it was a 10. I gave it my all," Leer said.
If that effort topped the scale, Leer proceeded to tip it during the home-opening soccer match against San Jose State that followed.
After handing off the microphone at the scorer's table, the Danville, Calif. product took up her spot on the Golden Bears' sideline. Leer was a member of Cal's starting side on Friday in a 3-0 win at Pacific, but Cal coach Neil McGuire planned to implement Leer's dynamic and wide-ranging talents differently against the Spartans.
Leer entered the contest at the 20-minute mark with fresh legs. Less than two minutes later, her energy prevailed in a scrum in front of the opposition's net as she scored her first goal of the season. Before the half was out, Leer earned another through traffic then found the back of the net a third time on a breakaway as the stadium announcer counted down the final seconds.
"Nothing beats a hat trick," the redshirt sophomore said after Cal's 5-2 victory, comparing the relative thrills of singing and scoring. She has performed the anthem at numerous campus and professional venues around the Bay Area so often that it's become routine, but the three goals Sunday exceeded her career total in 27 prior appearances.
"Equally impressed," McGuire said of Leer's anthem and hat trick. "She unfortunately got an injury early in her career. It took her a while to get back to her scoring ways. But now she's super sharp. She's one of the hardest working players I've ever coached, and she scores goals in a number of ways."
That was evident as Leer helped Cal rally twice from one-goal deficits. Her tallies were equal parts precision and poise—what one might expect from an experienced performer. Her team biography notes that she was a finalist on the television show "American Juniors" and has been a Radio Disney artist since 2005. Somewhat prophetically, the bio also lists an "ability to score goals in bunches."
The two skills aren't parallel in Leer's mind.
"Singing is an art. It's something that comes out of my soul. Soccer, being an athlete, using my body and my mind is quite different than using my voice and my heart."
Yet they were all on display during a career day in Berkeley.
Here's Leer singing the national anthem at a 2012 Cal softball game.
Courtesy of Cal softball