Schulenburg's Leah Mikesky doesn't duck hard work

Dec. 18, 2011 at 6:18 a.m.

Comparing Leah Mikesky's on-court actions to a duck might not be the most flattering thing ever said about the Schulenburg senior.

Yet, in some ways the analogy perfectly describes how the Lady Horns outside hitter has been so dominant throughout her varsity volleyball career.

"I try to stay calm and collected on the court, but I am an emotional rollercoaster inside," Mikesky said. "I don't think about anything I can't control. I focus on the pass, the set or the hit."

Like a swimming duck, Mikesky's on-court approach might appear effortless to others. The truth is her play has been the product of intense effort and training.

Her varsity coach, Donald Zapalac, cracked there have been a few times he has had to force her out the gym after practice.

Otherwise, Mikesky would work on too many things. Zapalac relented somewhat this season, because he knew someone would be in the gym with Mikesky - her younger sister, Shannon.

Shannon, a freshman, became the Lady Horns setter in 2011, and also a member of the Advocate's All-Area first team.

"The hours, the time and the dedication she has - no matter what it is - that's what sets her apart from a lot of other student-athletes," Zapalac said. "If you look at the classroom it's the same way. She's one of the top three or four in her class."

When asked about Zapalac's last sentence, Leah said she's never earned a 'B' in her academic career.

On the court, Mikesky led the area with 752 kills. She added 498 digs, 109 aces and 79 blocks for a Lady Horns team that went 35-8 and advanced to the regional tournament for a second straight season. For her efforts, she was named the District 28-2A MVP and the Advocate's 2011 area most valuable player.

"I don't feel I am good enough," Leah said, explaining why she is always sticking around after practice. "I try my best in club and at practice. I am never happy with where I am. I don't care about stats. I just want to get better."

Mikesky's drive was infectious with her teammates. That togetherness was not solely reserved for post-practice drills led by Leah. Each Tuesday before matches the entire team would enjoy lunch together at a local restaurant.

"In practice Coach Zap made it fun," Mikesky said, adding Zapalac's children Blaine and Landry also brought levity to the 2011 team. "Everyone liked each other. They volleyball season flew by because it was so much fun."

Mikesky said her individual accomplishments, as well as her signing a volleyball scholarship with Florida State, would not have been possible without Zapalac and her club volleyball coach Milton Koller. Both men saw her talent and refused the temptation to make her a middle blocker.

Throughout Leah's varsity and club career she has been an outside hitter. The foresight of Zapalac and Koller means that has played all six rotations for years, which not only sets her apart from many high school players her size, but will prepare her for her future in North Florida.

"Everyone who has been involved has not put themselves, or their interests, first," said Leah's mother Renee. "They have put Leah, and Shannon, first. That has been really wonderful."

Earlier this year, Mikesky said one of the reasons she chose the Seminoles over Louisiana State, Florida, Colorado State, Kentucky, Baylor and other schools was the intimate and family atmosphere the staff has fostered.

Schulenburg might have fewer than 250 students in the high school, but that didn't deter Florida State from recruiting the 6-foot-2-inch Mikesky, in part because FSU assistant Holly Watts has similar roots. Watts played at Devine before being an all-conference performer at Texas.

Mikesky spent the weekend in San Antonio cheering on her future teammates, who will be playing in the national semifinals for the first time in school history. All week long she has worn garnet and gold and imagining herself on the court - should the Seminoles return to such heights during her tenure.

Eventually leaving Schulenburg, and her teammates, will be difficult for Mikesky. However, the memories from this year, more than the victories and individual awards will continue to resonate.



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