PALMER — During his first year as the head coach of the Quinnipiac volleyball program, Kristopher Czaplinski got a hold of a video of a player across the country. It’s not everyday that the Division I school based in Hamden, Conn., would recruit a player from as far away as Alaska.
But something on that recruiting tape struck Czaplinski, a coach brought on to rebuild the Bobcats program.
That player was 2013 Colony High School graduate Allison Leigh. Czaplinski recruited Leigh and brought the 6-foot-3 middle blocker to Connecticut as part of his five-player freshman class. As it turns out, Czaplinski and the Bobcats found a gem in the 49th state.
Leigh, a former Colony volleyball standout, has started a 22 matches as a freshman, leads her team in numerous statistical categories and is the top blocker in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“I couldn’t ask for more from her right now. She’s doing a fantastic job,” Czaplinski said recently by cellphone from the Quinnipiac sports information office in Hamden.
Through the first 22 matches of the season, Leigh leads the Bobcats with 148 kills, 35 solo blocks and 98 total blocks. Her 1.26 blocks per set rank her first in the MAAC.
Czaplinski said Leigh has exceeded his expectations in regard to contribution early in her career.
“I really don’t expect a lot from freshmen, and she’s rose above everything. It’s amazing she’s leading the conference in blocking,” the second-year head coach said.
Before he had the chance to meet Leigh in person, Czaplinksi said, based her recruiting video, he believed Leigh was a player who could help in the rebuild of the Quinnipiac program. And it wasn’t all about Leigh’s 6-foot-3 frame.
“It was not even the height, it was how athletic,” Czaplinski said of Leigh.
Czaplisnki said he was impressed by how high Leigh can leap and how much range she covers in front of the net.
“It was incredible,” he said. “I knew within 30 seconds of watching the video she could help us tremendously.”
Leigh has even exceeded her own expectations of how she would contribute as a freshman
“I wasn’t expecting to start or anything,” Leigh said by cellphone from Hamden recently. “I didn’t realize I’d be starting, doing this well in the conference.”
Leigh said the transition from the high school to college game was certainly significant.
“Very fast, very powerful,” Leigh said of play at the Division I level. “Even the shorter girls. I expect to block them easy, but they can jump out of the gym.”
Leigh said she’s excited about what she’s done, but hasn’t paid a great deal of attention to her statistics. She didn’t even realize she was leading the league in blocking until a news article included the information earlier this season.
“I don’t really think about it,” Leigh said. “I don’t really worry about the stats much. When I read (that article) it surprised me.”
Leigh said she’s focused on the bigger picture.
“My biggest goal is to help turn the program around. In the past we haven’t been very successful. I want to try to make a positive impact on the program. Whatever it takes, whatever position they want me to play, I want to make a positive impact,” Leigh said.
And Leigh is enjoying everything about her freshman season — the team, the school, living on the East Coast for the first time and seeing the area’s fall colors.
“I love it,” she said.
Leigh and the Bobcats continue their season Wednesday with a home match against Bryant University and cap the regular season Nov. 17 at Niagra University in New York.
Contact Jeremiah Bartz at 352-2273