As she leaned against a medicine ball in a squatted position with sweat pouring down her face at a Munciana 15-1 Ninjas practice last spring in the volleyball club season, Micah Leavell nearly surrendered.
“In my head, I was just like, I can’t do this anymore,” Leavell recalled.
Those exact same words rang in her ears countless times before, and the 6-foot Central middle blocker used the “can’t” as a mental crutch to back down when pushed to the limit.
But not this time.
Instead of standing up and letting the medicine ball hit the floor, Leavell found the mental fortitude to persevere, complete the exercise and finish the practice with energy to spare.
“It just clicked, and I was like, you know what? I’m tired of being lazy,” Leavell said. “I’m tired of being not as good as I can be, I guess. Ever since then, I’ve just started trying harder and went in with a better attitude.”
The transformed Leavell opens her sophomore campaign tonight when Central plays host to Yorktown in the Muncie Fieldhouse, and her performances in practices and in a scrimmage last week against Burris indicate she is destined for a breakout season.
“I think Micah’s going to be our big hitter,” said Central sophomore and Ninjas teammate Nikki Marshall. “She’s going to take like, the role Jaydn’ (Pegues) has left off.”
Pegues now plays at IPFW, and she leaves 561 kills and a staggering 1,197 swings behind for the Bearcats to replace. Last season, opponents double and triple-blocked the outside hitter and dared any other Bearcat to swing.
The Central attack will in all probability be more balanced this season. Leavell will be the No. 1 option for her three rotations, and talented freshman middle blocker E’laisha Young will rip away in her three rotations, too.
Leavell pairs up with Young for virtually every drill. The Central sophomore is mentoring the freshman.
“She tells me the right things to do,” Young says. “She tells me to hustle more. She makes me push.”
Central coach Wes Lyon says Leavell is blossoming into a leader. Her upbeat personality rubs off on the other Bearcats, and she communicates effectively. That comes as no surprise considering her father, Adrian Leavell, is the founder and senior pastor of Cathedral of Praise Christian Church in Muncie and a senior pastor at Greater True Gospel Church in Indianapolis.
Micah Leavell credits Ninjas coach Randy Gardner for pushing her to test her limits and triggering a turning point for her, but her father is the man that inspires her to pursue greatness on the court. She says her father put the idea of someday playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the Olympics in her mind.
Obviously only the best play in the Olympics so that is a lofty objective, but Leavell is an extraordinarily talented player.
“She hits great angles, and she’s as good a blocker as you’re going to see,” Lyon says. “She travels along the net as well as anybody we’ve had.”
Lyon says Leavell possessed the physical tools as a freshman, but now she is mature enough to maximize her talent and shine on the varsity stage.
Leavell admittedly felt overwhelmed at times last season by the speed of play. The ballyhooed freshman managed a mere two kills and a block assist in an inauspicious varsity debut at Yorktown.
“I remember the first Yorktown match, and I was very embarrassed afterward because I was not ready at all,” Leavell says. “The speed of the game was just too quick.
“I can’t wait (for tonight). I’m very ready for that one.”