No matter how many kills she tallies or awards she wins, Kaitlyn Leary would trade it all for the success of her team.
Or maybe for a few pairs of shoes.
Leary, a senior outside hitter for the No. 13 Ohio State women’s volleyball team, was named Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week Sept. 10 after recording 66 kills to lead her team to the Four Points by Sheraton Seminole Invitational title.
The Parma, Ohio, native said she was excited to receive the award, but was happier that the team was successful.
“I was honored,” Leary said. “But I’m just happy with the way our team has been playing.”
Leary was quick to credit the play of teammates, including junior setter Taylor Sherwin.
“I think (Sherwin) has been doing an amazing job putting me in great situations, (putting) everyone in great situations,” she said.
Senior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo described Leary as “humble.”
“You would never know (what she’s accomplished) because she doesn’t really talk about what she’s accomplished,” Mandolfo said. “She’s always about the team.”
Even though they may not be the most important things to her, Leary is no stranger to personal accolades.
While at Padua Franciscan High School, she was a two-time first team All-Ohio performer in 2008 and 2009, the 2008-2009 district player of the year and a 2008 and 2009 Prep Volleyball All-American.
After her senior season in 2009, Leary was selected for the American Volleyball Coaches Association Under Armour All-American squad and won the Wendy’s High School Heisman before being named the 2010 ESPN Rise Magazine Female Athlete of the Year.
While her high school career was decorated, Leary has not had as much recognition since arriving in Columbus, at least not until this season.
OSU coach Geoff Carlston said the recognition is overdue.
“It’s great for her to get the recognition that she gets this year,” he said. “Last year she was really good and she didn’t get any recognition.”
Carlston added that he found Leary’s exclusion from the preseason All-Big Ten team “hilarious.”
Leary does things the right way, according to her coach, who said he is proud of the way she’s grown.
“She’s a great leader and I’m super excited (about) how far she’s come,” Carlston said.
Junior outside hitter Erin Sekinger said the team leans on Leary whenever things are not going their way.
“We all look towards her when there’s a problem going on the court,” Sekinger said. “If we need somebody to get a point for us, it’s always going to go to Leary.”
Sophomore middle blocker Andrea Kacsits said Leary is willing to be the punching bag for her teammates.
“She will take the blame for anything,” the sophomore said. “She has the most pressure of anybody on this team and she holds herself with such eloquence.”
On the court, Leary leads the Big Ten in kills per set and points. She also has worked on improving her defense this season, according to senior libero Davionna DiSalvatore.
“She knew she had to develop more of a defensive role this year and she worked really hard in the offseason,” DiSalvatore said.
Leary said she enjoys playing with her teammates, but off the court, they are just as close.
“We have a really strong connection,” she said. “I love all of my teammates.”
Off the court, Kacsits said Leary is secretly one of the funniest people around.
“She’s not super talkative, so when she says something it’s either really funny or really important,” she said.
Leary’s humor at times is unexpected, according to Kacsits.
“She’s the weirdest jokester ever,” Kacsits said. “Some of the things that come out of her mouth you’re just like ‘did she really just say that?’”
Carlston agreed with Kacsits, calling Leary “really hilarious,” but said you have to get to know her in order to find that out.
“If you just have one interaction with (Leary), you’re going to get nothing, except that she’s a nice person,” he said.
The Buckeye coach said his star attacker is much more outgoing now than when she first came to OSU. He also added how she “loves shoes.”
Leary explained that Carlston has asked her to count how many shoes she has, but had not done it yet and could not give an accurate number.
“It’s kind of an inside joke with me and (Carlston) because every time I show up, I have a different pair of shoes on and he’s always like ‘new shoes, Leary?’” she said.
The senior will have to leave the majority of those shoes behind as her team travels to Buffalo, N.Y., this weekend for the Blue and White Classic.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Maryland Eastern Shore Friday at 4:30 p.m. before playing two matches Saturday against Valparaiso at 11 a.m. and Buffalo at 7 p.m.
OSU is scheduled to return to Columbus Sept. 27 for a match against Michigan to open Big Ten season play.
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