St. Mary's High School senior Leah Meyer received the Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year Award for New York State. The 6'3" middle also announced her plans to attend Duke University at the Jan. 9 presentation.
Meyer, a Clarence resident, led the Lancers to 47-0-1 record, the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association championship, and a number 20 ranking nationally. Her .468 hitting average helped her get ranked 45th senior ace nationally by PrepVolleyball.com. She has also been named a three-time Msgr. Martin League MVP.
"She has all the measurable and all the immeasurables," said Coach Don Pieczynski. "She has a big heart. She has the big body, the reach, the length and the athleticism to put it all into motion."
Meyer had her choice of colleges, fielding offers from Penn State, Michigan and Syracuse, but chose to accept a full ride scholarship from Duke after visiting the campus.
"Duke was actually the first letter I received in eighth grade after nationals when I was 14. I visited there and I fell in love the campus. The second time I went there I knew that's where I wanted to be," she said. "Obviously moving 10 hours away from home is a long way, but I'm excited to get a fresh start and meet new people, be independent and on my own. I know my family and friends will be there supporting me all the time. It will be a tough change, but I'm really excited."
Coach Pieczynski has prepared her for the competition she will face on the college level.
"She's going to be going up against other Leah Meyers on the other side of the net," he said. "She's going up against the best of the best. That's why we try to challenge her here at St. Mary's. Sometimes there just wasn't enough challenge on the other side of the net. She has to be prepared to go against the best and deal with adversity because she's not always going to be the best player on the court."
Meyer credits her coach for pushing her to be her best.
"Donny expects the highest level from you every day. You come into practice knowing that," she said. "If you are not on your top game, he's going to push you and make you know you need to give more effort. I think every single one of the girls on this team knows that when we step into the gym, we mean business."
Meyer became interested in volleyball while watching her sister Kristen lead her team to state champions three years in a row.
"I told myself and my parents that was what I wanted to do when I was older. So that got me started," said Meyer.
Playing sports has many benefits. Not only is the physical activity a good way to stay healthy and relieve stress, it also helps to develop discipline and leadership skills.
"It's taught me responsibility and time management," Meyer said. "It teaches you how to respect others and how to set goals for yourself. I think it's important to be surrounded with a team atmosphere and having people pushing you all the time. I think that makes you so much of better person."
Off the court Meyer is involved in St. Mary's mentoring program and recruits for the school, all while keeping a 99 average.