COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS Brighton High's standout libero, Leigha Dangerfield, is surrounded by a bevy of higher profile superstars like Krista Keley, Missy White, Cassandra Ricketts and Kelsey Price but her coach knows her value to the team.
"The libero is the second most important position on the team," said coach Jeremiah Larsen. "She starts the offense 70 percent of the time."
He continued. "Our offense can't get in sync when she is off. When she is good we are really good."
Last week the Bengals dismantled all challengers in the state 5A volleyball championships by seizing the No. 1 spot without dropping so much as a single game. So the logical conclusion is: She was really good. But as usual she didn't get much ink. The flashier players soaked up most of the accolades. But Larsen has pointed out before there are five future Division I players on this team.
She is the fifth.
The lack of attention doesn't seem to really bother her. She appears content to go about her business quietly and just do her job. As a freshman and sophomore she was the setter on the team. But she said, "I love digging and passing the ball," describing why she made the switch to libero. She also added that her best skills are quickness and knowing how to react, "you have to react to the ball. You always have to be ready."
Perhaps her older sister, Connie, had some influence on her becoming a libero. Connie plays the same position on the highly ranked University of Utah team. Leigha looks up to her and counts on her for support. "She helps me a lot," she said. "She is kinda like a coach."
Another strength the younger Dangerfield possess is a strong serve. She is modest in talking about it and simply stated, "Serving is a strength."
Two days before the state tournament, Larsen was preaching how to turn a negative into a positive: "Everyone is gunning for us. We shouldn't be scared. We shouldn't be nervous. We should be excited!"
Dangerfield reacted like she was going for a dig when she replied without missing a beat, "I don't feel any pressure. I'm ready." She almost shrugged her shoulders when she said, "It is exciting to know that everyone is bringing their best game."
The entire Brighton volleyball team is a confident and poised bunch. At the same practice, setter Missy White backpedaled a little bit when she said, "It is harder than people think," But she came back strong saying, "We have a lot of experience with each other and if we take care of ourselves everything will be fine."
Indeed everything turned out fine. Ninth-ranked nationally before the tournament, the Bengals will likely move up. As for Dangerfield, she would like to keep playing after high school but she knows it is tougher for liberos to get scholarships than for big, strong outside hitters and blockers.This past summer she traveled to Italy with other Brighton team members on a club volleyball team where they played eight matches. In speaking about the trip and European style volleyball she said, "It was a great experience. I learned a lot of different perspectives on volleyball."