VOLLEYBALL: O'Leary living up to her ranking and making big impact for Novi in freshman seasonVolleyball  |
Novi – In volleyball, it’s not uncommon to see freshmen on varsity teams at the high school level.
And while Novi has seen freshmen play at the varsity level in years past, the Wildcats may not have had a freshman that has come in with the ranking of being the top setter in her class or one that has been able to contribute as early and often as Erin O’Leary has from the time she began at Novi this fall.
O’Leary earned the ranking as the top freshman setter in the country over the summer when she attended the High Performance Championships for the USA Team, where they invite the top players from around the country to play and assign those players to different teams based on their level of play.
The freshman standout was selected to play for the Red Team, the top team a player can be selected to, earning her the status of being the top setter in her class and the chance to play with the top players from across the country.
“I took about five seconds to just bask in the glory, and I just thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool’.” said O’Leary after learning of her selection and ranking. “Then I was just thinking that there are hundreds and hundreds of girls who want to be where I am right now, and I need to keep working hard to keep getting better and not necessarily hold the ranking, but do the best I can to try to represent everyone well.”
Novi head coach Jen Cottrill said that when O’Leary arrived at Novi, she could tell just how good she was on the court and the ranking she arrived with is one that she has lived up to early on.
“She’s a very natural setter,” she said. “She’s very gifted in the sport, before an injury, she wasn’t even setting for us, she was hitting right side, serve receiving just because she’s a natural talent. She just sees the court and understands the angles, just very natural.”
While she has made an impact from day one for the Wildcats, O’Leary credited her teammates ability and help on the court, along with their relationships, allowing her to fit in from the start.
“I think building good relationships on the court definitely starts off the court,” she said. “I love all of my teammates, I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything, they’re great and they’re all so talented, so I’m really lucky. They make me look good, because they can get the kills and I just set them up.”
So far this season for Novi, O’Leary has tallied 265 assists and 102 digs to go along with 107 kills as she’s helped Novi to its 22-4-1 record on the year.
While her coach considers her one of the most talented players she’s coached, Cottrill said that what separates O’Leary from other freshmen is her composure and maturity during practices and games.
“She has a great skill set, but her demeanor on the court is amazing,” she said. “She’s so mature, she’s so wise and she understands athletics and I think because of her dad being a varsity coach for so long and her hearing the importance of team. She’s very calm and composed. She doesn’t feel the pressure of the moment and I think those intangibles are what really sets her apart.”
When O’Leary arrived at Novi, she wasn’t any stranger to sports at the high school level as her father, Brian O’Leary, is the head soccer coach for the boys and girls teams for the Wildcats.
“She’s got enough advice, I don’t talk sports with her that much,” said Brian O’Leary on if he had any advice when Erin began playing high school volleyball. “She’s absorbed so much and she’s good with that. Maybe in my head I wonder how she’ll do or how she’ll handle it, but in the summer, she’s playing on a volleyball court against a different country’s team and there’s 50 college coaches there with a camera and videotaping, so for her to go from that to having a bunch of kids in high school watch her, is probably easier, I would think.”
O’Leary added that he doesn’t get to see his daughter play very often at the high school level because soccer and volleyball are played on the same night of the week, but for this year and next he gets to coach and watch his son, Connor, play for Novi, and that’s something that he enjoys having the chance to do. He later added that getting to go out and see Erin play during the summers against some of the top competition is something he obviously enjoys getting to see and hopes to see more of her high school games in the future.
Erin O’Leary said that some of the things that she was able to learn from her dad before stepping on the court for Novi had to do with things that take place off the court.
“I would say I’ve learned more things off the court and intangible things like putting the team first,” she said. “I go to the (soccer) banquets at the end of the year and I get to hear what he has to say and it’s great to hear him talk about the wins and losses, but it’s more about the relationships and getting things outside of winning games.”
When it comes to what she is looking forward to over the next three and a half years with O’Leary on her team, the goal for Cottrill and Novi is clear.
“To her setting us to a state championship,” she said. “She’s a kid that you build your program around and she’s got some pieces to the puzzle right now, but when you look down the line and what can we build around her to help us win that. Novi’s never won a state championship, so it’s what can we get around her to do so.”
O’Leary added that with a good start in 2014, she’s excited to continue her high school career with her coaches and teammates in the coming years.
“I’m so excited, especially with this early, good start, it’s a good way to start my high school volleyball experience,” she said. “It’s been very positive so