SPORTS HEADLINES

Pulling away: Leonard captures season assist record

By Clay Corbett | Published Saturday, November 9, 2013

{{{*}}}When it comes to assists, Decatur’s Stormi Leonard is in a league of her own.

Last year as a sophomore she stormed past the season record set by Joey Redwine. After a 32-assist performance in Decatur’s bi-district win against Aubrey Tuesday, Leonard broke her own season record.

RECORD HOLDER – Decatur’s Stormi Leonard broke her own single season assist record Tuesday. She has amassed 2,265 assists over the past two seasons. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

She currently sits at 1,138 assists, already 11 more than last season’s total. If they advance to the state championship game later this month, that’s a possible six more games.

“This year all the hitters have stepped up so much, that it has allowed to me to get a lot more assists in a shorter amount of time,” Leonard said. “Most of the time I just have to set a hitter, and they are going to kill it no matter what. Hopefully it’ll keep adding on and I can break it again next year.”

Starting well before Redwine, Decatur has had a long line of superb setters. Leonard is glad to be carrying on the tradition.

“When I broke Joey’s recored I was really excited,” Leonard said. “I looked up to Joey ever since I first saw her play. All the setters to come through here have been so good, and to be put in the same breath as them is an incredible honor, because I look up to them so much.”

Over the last two seasons Leonard has grown more comfortable with her role. With the talent around her growing too, it has made her job that much easier.

“She’s feeding the ball to the hitters that are going to score points, and that changes from match to match,” Decatur coach Claire Benedict said. “We try to recognize the defense on the other side and go into a game plan of who is going to be the most effective attacker against that defense and that changes each match.”

Only a junior, Leonard’s knowledge of the game has reached a high level. One of the big reasons she has put up lofty assist numbers is her ability to read the other team.

“She utilizes the block on the other side and reads them to set against the block,” Benedict said. “That’s a very advanced mindset for a setter in high school.”

At only 5’6″ Leonard has become a huge factor on the front row. Her work ethic has allowed her to develop a vertical leap to rival some of her taller teammates.

“She’s improved her vertical to play the front row and block against hitters,” Benedict said. “She works hard day-in and day-out. It’s definitely nice to have a leader in here who is as dedicated as she is.”

Last year Decatur saw their season come to an end in a grueling five-game match at the Region II final against current No. 1 Argyle. Tuesday night, they will meet again for the right to go back to the Region II Tournament in Mesquite.

The two teams have played twice this season, with Argyle taking both matches. Benedict hates to see these two great teams having to meet so early in the playoffs this year.

“It’s unfortunate the way the UIL has set up this bracket, that they are playing two of the best four teams in the state in the third round,” she said. “We’re familiar with each other. They know our strengths, and we know theirs.

“It’s going to be a matter of battling it out point-for-point and who is going to make the least amount of errors.”

Leonard says they just made too many mistakes last time the two teams met back in September, and they need to approach it like any other game.

“We know they are a great team, and they have a lot of weapons like us,” Leonard said. “We’re really evenly matched. We just have to get out of the mindset that they are Argyle and play them like any other team.

“We have to focus on ourselves and not them.”

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