Leary possesses ‘work ethic’ to lead Arizona sand volleyball

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Jordan Glenn | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona sand volleyball redshirt senior Kaitlyn Leary tips the ball over the net during Arizona's 5-0 victory over Cal State Northridge on Saturday at Jimenez Field. Leary has taken on a leadership role for the Wildcats this season.

Many of Arizona sand volleyball’s athletes come from an indoor volleyball background and are having to make the tough transition to sand volleyball.

Ohio State transfer Kaitlyn Leary has had a remarkably smooth transition to the sand.

A native of Ohio, Leary spent 2010-2013 playing volleyball for the Ohio State Buckeyes. She was an AVCA All-American and All-Region and led the nation and the Big Ten in kills.

Leary is now a part of the Wildcats’ No. 1-seeded team, along with partner Madi Kingdon. The pair is 8-1 this season and won the Cal Poly Pairs Tournament.

The transition to playing sand volleyball from indoor volleyball is no small challenge, but Leary has handled it flawlessly.

“It’s been really fun and it’s been challenging, but coming early in the fall and having that fall semester just to get the training and the reps with [Arizona coach Steve Walker] and the girls has been really helpful,” Leary said.

Walker said Leary is a blessing to the program and wishes he had the opportunity to coach her for a full four years.

“She possesses the Midwest work ethic that you love to coach,” Walker said. “And it will be a sad day when she’s done.”

Leary said she chose to come to Arizona because she felt comfortable with the girls and coaching staff and also wanted to play for a big school with a big athletics atmosphere.

“The atmosphere here is awesome here at bear down beach,” Leary said. “We get big crowds and the fans are all into it, so it’s been really fun.”

Leary attributes some of her success at Arizona to her time spent in the Big Ten at Ohio State.

“The Pac-12 and Big Ten are the best conferences for volleyball in the country,” Leary said. “The competitiveness has been similar, so that’s prepared me for, like, the pressure and the playing environment.”

Walker agrees Leary’s experience playing at such a high level of indoor volleyball has given her the preparation and focus needed to make the successful transition to the sand.

One of Leary’s strengths is her mental composure and focus, which Walker hopes some of the younger players will develop.

“Kaitlyn is certainly someone who is steady day in and day out, and you know exactly what you’re going to get,” Walker said. “That’s something I would love our younger players to adopt, and something I point out constantly.”

Although she is a newcomer, Leary has already made an impact on this Arizona team through her leadership qualities.

“I think it’s in her nature to be that way, and something she does really, really well at is lead by example.” Walker said. “She has just been a terrific role model on the court for a lot of our players.”

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