For the past five seasons, the Decatur Lady Eagles’ attacks have been in good hands.
Fleming Smurthwaite quarterbacked the offense for three seasons as the setter before heading to the University of Central Oklahoma and then TCU.
For the last two years, the athletic and versatile Joey Redwine led the way before heading to St. Gregory’s to play this fall.
Now, the setter job at least partially falls to Stormi Leonard. The sophomore enters two-a-days Monday as the expected starter at setter for a Lady Eagles team looking for their fourth straight district title.
“I feel a huge responsibility,” Leonard said. “I’m not just following Joey, but also Fleming. Those girls were amazing and got to play in college.
“I now have a big responsibility for getting the team in the right spot and the ball to the right person. I’m nervous but excited.”
Leonard broke in with the Lady Eagles last year as a freshman. She finished the season with 39 assists and 128 digs behind Redwine.
Decatur coach Claire Rose was impressed with what she saw from Leonard in limited action last year. She expects her to improve this season, but cautions that it won’t be easy.
“Stormi is capable,” Rose said. “I’m not sure if she’ll take over at setter for all six rotations, but she’ll be one of the setters.
“This year is about getting experience. She put in a lot of time playing club in the offseason. It’ll be challenging. She’ll have to make faster decisions and will need to learn to run the offense at the speed our system requires.”
Rose said she must learn to also handle the scrutiny of playing setter for their coach.
“I’m the hardest on my setters,” she said. “They’ve all had to go through a year of adjusting and learning me as a coach.”
Leonard spent as much time as she could last year trying to soak up as much knowledge as she could from Redwine.
“She was a huge help,” Leonard said. “She was always encouraging. If I messed up, she was there to lift me up.”
One piece of advice Redwine gave her was to be herself. Leonard understands that she can’t put pressure on herself to be Redwine or Smurthwaite and must capitalize on her own strengths.
“I know we are different people,” Leonard said. “I’m not going to move the ball around myself like Joey. I have to find other people.”