From Varsity to University, Volleyball Offers Assist

Leanna Ludes credits her team sport experience for helping to build her confidence on and off the court. <b>Photo: Don Toedtemeier / DTexposures.com</b>

Vancouver, Wash.--With her near-perfect grade-point average and her zest for learning new things, new cultures, Leanna Ludes is pretty much destined to attend college, expand her horizons.?

Having her college paid for through athletics, however, was not necessarily on the agenda.??

That all changed with a simple request from her mother a few years ago, a demand really.??

"My mom wanted me to do a team sport. She told me to pick basketball or volleyball," said Ludes, a junior at Skyview High School.??

Ludes picked volleyball, and volleyball has been very good to Ludes.??

In the years since that seventh-grade decision, Ludes has turned into one of the best setters and top all-around players in Clark County. Her coach, in fact, thinks she is one of the best in the state.??

"She is very commanding out there," Cheyanne Knight said. "She makes it look so easy."??

Ludes already has gone on unofficial visits to universities, including Washington State, Washington, and Portland. She has plenty of time to come to a decision, but she is enjoying the experience.??

"It's an exciting process," she said. "It's fun to see the different aspects of college and what you can get out of them."??

Ludes loves an adventure. She has traveled to places such as Portugal and St. Croix. She has dreamed of becoming an astronomer, then an engineer. For now, she really does not know what she wants to do, but she is thrilled to be on life's journey.??

It is a far cry from her time participating in youth gymnastics, a quiet person in an individual sport.??

That is why her mom gave her that nudge.??

"She's an only child, and I wanted her to get that team-sport experience," Lorri Ratliff said. "She has just become a confident individual and sure of who she is. It's been really fun to watch her grow out of being a really shy little girl."??

"I was nervous about being with other people," Ludes said. "Now that I'm on a team, I feel I can be more open. It helped me open up."??

She took to volleyball immediately, jumping into the sport with camps, then club ball. The last two summers, she has played for Nike Northwest, winning back-to-back Reno Festival championships in Nevada. Prairie senior Rachel Femling also competed on that select team.??

Besides setting duties, Ludes, at 5-foot-10, has the height and hops to play the net, an ideal combination. Knight said Ludes, who made varsity as a freshman, will be even more a leader this year, now that she has two years of varsity experience.??

Off the court, Ludes is trying to do the right things, too. She carries a 3.95 grade-point average.??

But there are times when she fibs to her parents.??

"Sometimes I'll say I finished my homework just so I can play volleyball," Ludes said. "It's more fun to play volleyball."??

See what you created, mom???

"I fell in love with volleyball, and it's my life now," Ludes said.


Don Toedtemeier is a sports action photographer who has been active in the industry for over two decades, combining his love for sport with his visual talent. For more info, visit his site dtexposures.com .

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