Freshman of the week

Leah Clayton has been a big contributor for the Lady Flames volleyball team

The Big South Conference recently named freshman outside hitter Leah Clayton Volleyball Freshman of the Week after her impressive performance with the Liberty University women’s volleyball team.

“I’ve grown to get along with and focus on other people on the court,” Clayton said. “I rely on the players around me for encouragement, and they rely on me.”

Not only was she most recently awarded Big South Freshman of the Week, but the conference also named her Player of the Week a few days prior.

BUMP — Freshman Leah Clayton has played a large role for the Lady Flames this season. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

BUMP — Freshman Leah Clayton has played a large role for the Lady Flames this season. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Clayton is from Danville, Virginia. She attended Westover Christian Academy, where she began playing volleyball in sixth grade. In eighth grade, she began playing for a club volleyball team.

“I played soccer and softball when I was younger, (and) then I played basketball until my senior year,” Clayton said. “Then, I got into the rhythm of volleyball and fell in love.”

With Westover Christian’s team, she recorded 2,189 kills, the highest number by a Virginia high school player.

Clayton became familiar with Liberty through her family’s involvement with the school and convenient proximity to Liberty. Her home in Danville is only an hour and 15 minutes from campus.

“I came to all the games, and I knew so much about it,” Clayton said. “My mom is an (alumna) and my sister attends law school here, so Liberty has always been in my path.”

The freshman standout considered many other options before deciding to become a Liberty Flame. Her love of basketball led her to consider large state schools such as the University of North Carolina and others before settling on Liberty.

“I kept my options open, but I didn’t keep them open for very long because I knew this is where I wanted to be,” Clayton said.

Former Assistant Coach Becki Rudnick reached out to Clayton while she was still in high school. Rudnick introduced Clayton to the attitude and atmosphere of the program.

“The players and coaches showed me what Liberty was all about, how to play and how to have an expectation,” Clayton said. “They were personable with me, and it felt like we were just old friends catching up.”

Clayton is majoring in graphic design. Although she is just getting started, she described it as a rewarding, but time-consuming field.

“I’m hoping to travel to a couple different countries to get different ideas, and then, come back to do logos,” Clayton said.

“I want to have a ton of sceneries and environments around me to get fresh, new ideas.”

Clayton is adjusting to her first semester as a college student. She applies the skills she learned on and off the court.

“Volleyball has taught me a lot about time management,” Clayton said. “It taught me how to focus on many things at once without going crazy.”

On the court, Clayton explained that she has always been close with her teammates.

Their support and the support from her coaches furthers her success.

“I don’t get tired being around the girls, but I think I would at a different school,” Clayton said. “The coaches are tough, but they care about us on the court and off the court.”

Clayton currently has a 3.62 kill per set average, which is the highest on the team.

In this season alone, she totaled 139 kills and 114 digs with more matches to come.

“There is never a dull moment because someone is always cracking a joke,” Clayton said. “Even when we do have spurts of feeling down, I still wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Clayton is ranked No. 3 in the Big South for highest number of kills within a single match with 22 kills against Winthrop.

Although Clayton was hesitant at first, she is a formidable force for the Flames in the Big South.

“I waited a week before accepting coach’s offer,” Clayton said. “Then I called coach and I said, ‘Coach, I’m a Lady Flame.’”

See Clayton in action at the Liberty Flames’ next home game Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. against Radford.

Ball is a sports reporter.

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