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While hanging out with a pair of Decatur quarterbacks, Grayson Muehlstein and Justin Myers, Stormi Leonard got a few lessons on taking a snap and dropping back to pass.
“I’ve always wanted to play football,” Leonard said. “But I never could.”
Though not on the gridiron, Leonard is undoubtedly the quarterback for the Decatur Lady Eagles volleyball team, which begins its state title defense Monday with the start of fall workouts.
Leonard, a four-year varsity player, is the school record holder for assists. She handed out 1,356 last year on the way to the 3A crown. But the all-state setter means far more to the Lady Eagles than those numbers show.
“She’s the whole package,” said Decatur coach Claire Benedict-Gay. “She brings a lot of life to the floor. She’s always dancing and smiling. She’s very entertaining.”
Leonard also bears the brunt of her coach’s displeasure when something goes wrong.
“She takes the most heat from me. I’m harder on her than anyone,” the coach explains.
The job description isn’t ideal, serving as part cheerleader, quarterback, psychologist and fall-guy.
“Some days are harder than others, but I wouldn’t want another job,” Leonard said. “You have to have lots of patience and the ability to work with everyone – the different hitters and passers. You also have to deal with the coach and refs.
“If a hit isn’t right or a pass wasn’t good, it’s up to me to fix the mistake.”
Leonard started playing setter in junior high after she realized her height (5-7) would limit her as a hitter.
“I’m short,” Leonard said with a dead-pan delivery. “I used to hit, and then in seventh grade, I accepted the fact that I’m not going to be a hitter.”
She started working with former Decatur standout Fleming Smurthwaite, and by her freshman year she was a part-time setter on the Lady Eagles’ varsity with Joey Redwine.
Leonard’s all-around game keeps her on the floor most of the time. There are rare occasions when big opposing hitters force her out in favor of a taller blocker.
“I don’t want to come out of the game – ever,” Leonard said. “I’ve been working on my jumping and training.”
After winning the state title last season, Leonard knows it will be a challenge for her and her teammates this year. It’s a challenge she welcomes.
“It’s almost the same pressure as last year,” Leonard said. “Everyone will be looking to not let it happen again.”
She also wants to make the most of this senior season.
“It’s hard to believe it’s the last year,” Leonard said.
If the job gets tough, Leonard knows she can head to the football fieldhouse to find peers that understand.
“We’re doing the same job. We all agreed it’s a difficult position,” Leonard said. “But we don’t want to do anything else.”