Sept. 1, 1999
By Alan Wasielewski
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Mary Leffers is ready to prove she is back to form in 1999. One of the co-captains for Notre Dame volleyball coach Debbie Brown, Leffers is anxious to put the 1998 campaign behind her.
Leffers, an American Volleyball Coaches Association All-District I and first team All-BIG EAST selection in 1997, was poised to take her game up to an even higher level in 1998, but the 6-4 middle blocker from Tampa, Fla., was limited throughout last season after suffering a knee injury in the spring of 1998.
“Even though I was doing everything last year, towards the end of the season, my knee was only at about 50 percent,” Leffers says. “In hindsight, maybe I should not have played, but it was just too hard to watch from the bench.”
Although she was not at 100 percent, Leffers still put together an impressive list of accomplishments. She became the sixth player in Notre Dame history to surpass 400 blocks in a career. One of Leffers’ best games in ’98 was in a 3-1 win over Rutgers as she recorded 14 kills and 8 blocks. In the first round of the NCAA tournament against Eastern Washington, she also played strong recording five kills, two digs and six blocks. Leffers, however, was not satisfied with her performance.
“I think I have a lot to prove this year,” Leffers says. “A lot of people feel there is a weak link this year without (1999 graduate) Lindsay Treadwell, but once we find out who is going to step up this year, leadership, especially from the seniors, is going to be a key.”
Leffers, who was selected a co-captain by her teammates last spring, understands her role as a leader.
“Sometimes teams make out being the captain for more than it should be,” Leffers says. “Leaders are born on the court. Even though your teammates say you are the captain, that doesn’t necessarily make you a leader.
“Throughout the season, I am looking for more people to step it up. I don’t think we will win if just one person is the one who says, ‘let’s go’.”
Leffers’ style of leadership is well-known to Brown.
“In terms of intensity, Lindsay and Mary are very much the same,” Brown says. “They go hard themselves and expect the same from their teammates. If Mary senses that someone isn’t playing 100 percent, then she going to get on them to pick it up.”
Under the leadership of Leffers and fellow captain, junior Denise Boylan, the Irish look to improve on last season’s 18-13 record. The team is aiming for their fifth straight BIG EAST Championship and eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. Leffers will be the starting middle blocker on a team that has returning starters in five of the six positions. The other starters from last year include Boylan at setter, junior Christi Girton and sophomore Marcie Bomhack at the outside hitter positions and sophomore Kristy Kreher and senior Emily Schiebout, who share the starting duties at opposite.
“Realistically, we have to look at it game by game,” Leffers says. “Our ultimate goal every year is to win the BIG EAST and get as far in the NCAA tournament as we can. Our potential is a top 16 spot. We can do that.”
As Leffers strives to make her teammates better, her assault on the Notre Dame record books will continue. Her .280 career hitting percentage trails only Treadwell (.293) and Zanette Bennett (.289) on the career list. Her career 1.34 blocks per game is second only to Mary Kay Waller (1.68). After the season she could be in the all-time top 10 in seven career categories, but these records will not totally satisfy the senior.
“I don’t think I will accomplish what I want to,” Leffers explains. “I always want to look back and say I did my best, that I did all I could. There is always more I could have done.
“After every season, every practice, I want to do my best and have done everything I can. which is sometimes hard because I have a tendency to set goals so high that I can never attain them.”
Leffers is also aware that this is her last year on the court at Notre Dame and is determined to go out her own way.
“I know that I don’t want to stop playing volleyball, so my goal is to keep getting better and live up to the standards my coaches have set for me and my team,” Leffers said.
Back at 100 percent for the season, Leffers might just set a new series of standards for future Irish players to live up to.