ROTW: Crandall Volleyball Middle Blocker, Leah Gardner
Matches are right around the season for Texas High School Volleyball. With plenty of athletes working hard throughout the summer to keep their skills sharp, there are a handful who have really stood out among the rest. VYPE DFW recently interviewed Crandall Pirates middle blocker Leah Gardner-- VYPE DFW's recruit of the week! Gardner discussed her time so far with the Pirates as well as what she's looking forward to this fall!
Success + Staying Focused
Last season, the Crandall Pirates fought hard to post big wins against the likes of Wolfe City, Newman Smith, West Mesquite, and more. Gardner played a key role in leading the Pirates toward their success on the court. She credits a lot of the team's success to their chemistry. "We were all friends with each other and bonded on and off the court," Gardner said. "This allowed us to gain momentum multiple times in matches and maintain and win games against teams we had lost to the previous season."
Though the team showed strength as a whole unit, Gardner also showed plenty of success as an athlete. During her time with Crandall, Gardner has been named First Team All-District, Offensive Player of the Year, Outstanding Blocker, and Most Valuable Player for the team's awards last season. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA, Gardner has also been named Academic All-State three seasons in a row. So, what's the secret to her personal success? "My ability to stay level-headed when things get intense," says Gardner. "I do my best to stay calm and play to a higher level than I had before. This also applies to when I make errors- I recognize what I did wrong, correct it in my head, and then focus on the next play. You have to have short-term memory in volleyball."
In order to remain successful on and off the court, an athlete needs to be focused at all times... especially during the offseason. For Gardner, this entails continuing to put in hard work with club volleyball. "My offseason consists of club volleyball multiple days of the week. I train for many hours with amazing coaches and players to consistently get better and play at a high level. This helps me tremendously when the school season rolls around."
Goals + Mindset
Setting goals is an important part of accomplishing big things as a young athlete. Gardner has laid out goals for herself season after season. Last season, Gardner says her goals were to be an impactful athlete. "I wanted to increase my number of blocks per season." Continuing to use her goals to power her success, Gardner has also set goals ahead of her senior season that is rapidly approaching: "My goals for this upcoming season are to make it to playoffs and to get at least half as many blocks as I do kills."
With the right mindset, goals are certainly obtainable. "My mindset going in to each season is to enjoy it, do my best, and make it to playoffs. Hopefully we can do that this season to finish my high school volleyball career."
The Season Ahead
Crandall is preparing for a tough schedule this season, but it's certainly one that they can be successful in powering through. Gardner has many things that she's looking forward to, but she laid out just what has her excited for the season ahead. "I am most looking forward to having a new coach, Courtney Linton," Gardner said. "I went to AAU with her last summer and I grew so much as a player in a short amount of time. I think she will change the CHS volleyball program in the best way and lead us to success!"
Although there is still plenty to look forward to, VYPE DFW asked Gardner what her favorite memory with Crandall volleyball has been. "One of my favorite memories from my high school career is from when I got my first kill as a varsity player. I was a freshman playing RH and we were playing Brownsville in front of a home crowd. I got the kill and our student section started chanting: 'She's a freshman!' Most of the student section was aware that it was my first game as a varsity player and when they went wild it made the moment extremely memorable and special!"
A Bright Future
Although Gardner is not yet committed to a college program, she has not ruled out the idea of playing volleyball at the next level. "I am looking for a team with a winning culture that feels like a home away from home," Gardner told VYPE. "I want to feel like I matter and would be an important part of the team."
Gardner plans on majoring in accounting with the hopes of becoming an accountant for the FBI.
What is your favorite professional sports team?
"The New Orleans Saints since I am originally from Louisiana."
As an athlete, who do you most look up to?
"I look up to Foluke Akinradewo and Lauren Stirvins. They are both extremely talented MBs and I love to watch them play and learn from them."
If you could have dinner with any person (dead or alive) who would it be? What would you hope to talk about?
"It would have to be Louis Tomlinson. He's one of my favorite singers and I love- and relate to- his music."