Her face lights up when she talks about volleyball. Really, Leah Meyer could play volleyball all day, every day. She used to play basketball, too, but she gave that up quickly to focus on volleyball. There's something about the intensity of every point that speaks to Meyer's sense of competition and drive.
Her passion for the sport - from the big picture to the minute detail - comes through easily. And it's no wonder why the sophomore at St. Mary's is getting national attention. Meyers has height, athleticism and a focused joy. It's part of what makes her a pretty good overall package.
Meyer was named one of the Frosh 59 by the national publication, Prep Volleyball Magazine, recognizing her as one of the most outstanding volleyball freshmen for the 2011 fall season. Meyer helped St. Mary's win the state title last season, hitting .415 while averaging 2.6 blocks per match.
And the national accolade was rather surprising.
"It felt amazing because I had absolutely no idea that it was coming," Meyer said. "My dad showed me the article [in Prep Volleyball Magazine] and I was kind of in disbelief. I didn't know what to think of it. I was just so excited. It was just an amazing feeling to know that I'm with those top girls in the country."
Amazing, yes. But not quite as amazing as winning that state title last year or playing with her St. Mary's teammates.
For Meyer, volleyball began in sixth grade. She started playing for varsity last year and spends the rest of the year playing with her club team for Niagara Frontier Volleyball. The commitment to year-round volleyball is intense.
"Most of these girls get recognized from playing club volleyball . and Leah's performed well against some of the best talent in the country," said St. Mary's coach Don Pieczynski. "That's where her name gets out there. They play so much more offseason than they do in season. Our high school season is fairly short. We only get 24 matches. You can play 24 matches in a couple of weekends in club volleyball."
And all that experience pays off. Meyer always displayed natural athletic ability and her skill was enhanced by a growth spurt that puts her at 6-foot-2. A middle blocker by trade, she can swing from pretty much anywhere on the floor and has become an effective blocker, working on timing and reading plays in order to make the most of her size and athleticism.
"She's just got the whole package. It's hard to really pick out any one point of her game," Pieczynski said. "She's got a good jump serve as well when she goes in the back row. She's a good attacker out of the back row.
"She has the physical ability to make this game go in slow motion but she also has the experience. She sees a lot of things out there that a lot of players as sophomore won't necessarily see because of all the experience she has playing."
Is all that experience tiring? Not for Meyer. She's anything but burned out on volleyball. After the long club season, she seems to cherish her high school season. From a development standpoint, she can work on perfecting aspects of her game, something she can't do as readily in the match-heavy club season.
"I was having a lot of trouble with [timing] and coming into high school season just being able to work on it has helped me out a lot," Meyer said. "I was having a lot of trouble with my blocking and I can tell that it's getting better. I'm trying to improve every day on my footwork and speed to get out there. It's helped a whole lot, just to be able to be in school and work on that every day."
More importantly for Meyer, though, is the sense of team she shares with her St. Mary's crew and her belief that they can win another state title.
"My team for club was very close, but I feel like this team is so much closer," Meyer said. "I just love playing on this team so much because everyone is just like a family. If you're down, everyone just picks you right up. It's a wonderful feeling to have them all behind you.
"I'm super excited for the rest of this season. I definitely think that we can go and win states again. We have the strongest bonded team that I've ever been on. I just feel like we have so much potential."