By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Championships lead to memories. Not just for the players who win them, but for the fans who watch them as well.
McAlester senior Skyler LeFors remembers watching the 2006 McAlester volleyball team that won a state championship. She said Wednesday that memory led to her joining the volleyball team at Puterbaugh Middle School in seventh grade.
“It’s more of a mental sport,” LeFors said Wednesday. “If you get down, you have to bring yourself back up, or you won’t play well.”
LeFors played two years of junior-high volleyball, then moved up to the varsity for her freshman year. She first started getting playing time in her sophomore year.
“My first varsity game, it was very nerve-wracking, because I was kind of scared to play with the older girls,” LeFors said. “But it’s a lot better to play at a faster pace.”
Having always been a setter, LeFors has evolved into the Lady Buffs’ second setter in their 6-2 offense this year. With two setters, McAlester now has three potential front-row hitters on any given play.
“She’s being more intentional in her footwork with her setting,” coach Anita Burns said. “She’s very intentional. You can hear it in the gym, you can hear Skyler (stepping) left-right, left-right. And she’s on the balls of her feet like we’re asking her to be, pushing with her legs.
“She’s absolutely become a leader this year, reaching out to the underclassmen and really trying to make them feel welcome.”
LeFors agrees that footwork is something she focuses on when she sets. Knowing her feet are positioned correctly leads to confidence — a necessity for volleyball’s equivalent of a point guard or quarterback.
“You have control of the court, so you get to run the plays and everything,” LeFors said.
“A bad set is kind of hitting your hands hard, and a good set, it just kind of goes with it. The ball’s really steady, not spinning.”
LeFors plays in both the front row and the back row for the Lady Buffs. Though she said she prefers the front row because it lets her hit, her true value to team might be in her play behind the 10-foot-line.
“We’ve asked them to look over and let us give them a spot to serve to,” Burns said. “She’s one of the few that I can count on to look ove ... and she’s pretty doggone good at hitting those spots. Especially her short serve is really good.”
LeFors said her repertoire of sets has grown this season as the Lady Buffs have instituted more complicated hitting schemes. Though LeFors can set outside or behind her on J sets — in which the middle hitter slides over to the right side — straight middle hits are still the easiest for her.
“You have to get it tight, and it has to be in the right spot or the block will get it,” LeFors said of setting middles. “You’re just getting it a couple feet in the air. That way they can get to the ball fast.”
Having good friend Kylie Murdaugh as her middle hitter also helps. In general LeFors said she considers her teammates to be some of her best friends at McAlester High School, which will make it hard to say good-bye to this season that’s quickly approaching its halfway point.
“Kylie, she’s been there for me, and she’s really goofy and funny,” LeFors said.
“When we start getting points, we get really happy, and we’re really good at working with each us other. We have really good relationships with each other.”
Once she graduates, LeFors said she definitely wants to go to college, ideally to a Division 2 school where she can continue playing volleyball. The University of Central Oklahoma is LeFors’ top choice because of its strong forensics program.
“I really am interested in the way people think,” LeFors said. “I want to know how the person died, the criminology. I want to get into people’s minds. UCO, I heard, is one of the best forensics schools in the state.”
When not playing volleyball, LeFors tries to stay active, running or working out. She’s been a distance runner on several spring MHS track teams and will probably do so again in 2014, competing in the 800 meter, the mile and the 2 mile relay.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.