Erin O’Leary comes from a soccer family.
Her dad, Brian, is a high-school soccer coach at the same Novi High School in Michigan that she attends where he has led the girls’ team to five state titles.
“My whole family is a soccer family,” Erin said.
But O’Leary, who is a Michigan volleyball commit, veered off in another direction.
“My older sister played volleyball and I wanted to do what she was doing,” she said. “I started practicing with her and hanging around the teams she was playing on. I was 6 or 7, really little, and I was playing with the older girls.
“I used to get asked why I don’t play soccer. I just like volleyball. I probably wasn’t any good at first, but playing with the older girls pushed me. I really enjoy playing.”
And it shows.
O’Leary, a 5-10 setter, recently completed her season with the Legacy 17 Elite team in the 17 Open division at the recent USA girls junior national championships in Minneapolis. That’s where VolleyballMag.com caught up with the 2016 Lucky Dog Volleyball/VolleyballMag.com girls’ high school second-team All-American selection and a 2017 VolleyballMag.com 25 Underclassmen to Watch List appointee.
“As a setter, I like the control you have over a game,” said O’Leary, a dog lover who does not own a dog but has a pet bunny instead. “It’s a really satisfying feeling when you get a hitter one on one. That’s a very good feeling. I also stay pretty calm when the situation gets tough. That helps bring the team together.”
It’s resulted in success following her where she goes. After leading her Novi team to a 52-1 record and a Michigan Class A state titles the past two years, O’Leary was named the Michigan Gatorade player of the year. She racked up 1,451 assists, 361 digs, 203 kills and 76 service aces, while hitting .462.
Before that O’Leary was part of the USA girls’ youth national team that took second in the NORCECA U18 Continental Championship.
O’Leary said she’s also benefitted from an action-packed schedule with her Legacy club team, which ended up tying for 13th in 17 Open.
“I have such great hitters on this team that it gives me an opportunity to work on running a more creative offense,” she said. “I’ve been playing with these girls a long time. We’re all very good friends. I get to play with a lot of amazing players.”
While she still has one more season each of high school and club left, O’Leary can’t help but think to the near future when she will don the maize and blue at Michigan. Michigan’s coaching staff was watching in Minneapolis. What’s more, O’Leary is one of five members of the Legacy 17 Elite team who have committed to Division I schools.
“I’m so excited, Abbey (Legacy teammate Malinowski, a 6-1 outside hitter from Clarkston High School) and I both are going there,” O’Leary said. “I grew up around Michigan volleyball. I used to play for a club that practiced in their gym and I was a ball shagger there when I was younger. Going to Michigan has always been a dream of mine.”
Legacy 17 Elite Division I Commits
Name Pos School
Erin O’Leary S Michigan
Abbey Malinowski OH Michigan
Lauren Wentzel MB Notre Dame
Maria Mallon OH Cincinnati
Chandlar Duff MB Oregon