July 27, 2020 – By NJP
Audrey Leak, an outside hitter for Dwight-Englewood High School has had an absolutely memorable career collecting over 1,000 kills and setting six different school records. But choosing to attend, and being accepted, at Yale University in the Ivy League is even a bigger honor. Yale’s admission standards are one of the highest in the country. The 2020 class had 31,455 applicants for 1,972 accepted students, equating to just a 6.3% acceptance rate. An amazing accomplishment for a student who clearly has her eye focused on her academics.
With a goal of eventually attending medical school, Audrey likes the path her parents have set for her, as they both have made the medical profession their passion. She will major in Psychology with a pre-med pathway.
Outside of her academics, Volleyball has been her passion. Over her four year high school career, she not only had 741 digs, 265 aces, and 1,175 kills, but Dwight-Englewood was 81-21 during her tenure with a near 80% win percentage. Ironically, Audrey will stay a Bulldog coming from Dwight-Engelwood and moving on to Yale University with the same mascot.
Audrey made her mark for the USA Volleyball’s High Performance program being selected to play for the USA A1 Youth Red team at the High Performance championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her GEVA regional team as well. She has won numerous awards at the high school level since breaking on to the scene as a freshman in 2016.
At 6’2″, Audrey has exceptional athleticism and a powerful right arm. Despite her height advantage, she has solid agility and equally as effective digging and passing as she is hitting. It’s unfortunate that COVID will affect her freshman year schedule, but we have every expectation that when play resume, Audrey will be a key ingredient in the Bulldog attack… as usual.
Here is our interview with Ms. Leak…
Hi Audrey… Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi everyone! I am a senior graduating from Dwight-Englewood School. I live in Saddle River, NJ and I will be attending Yale University in the fall. I have an older sister who is a sophomore on the University of Pennsylvania volleyball team, and I have a younger brother who attends Dwight-Englewood. When I am not playing volleyball, I like going to the movies and hanging out with my friends at the mall.
You have had a truly amazing high school career at Dwight Englewood accumulating 1,175 kills, 741 digs, and 265 aces. As you look back at your career, what is your best memory?
My best memory from my Dwight-Englewood career would be my freshman year when we beat Hackensack in the second round of counties. Going into this game we were the underdogs and we were the lower-ranked seed. I think that because we had nothing to lose, our team really came together and found the confidence to bounce back and win the game in three sets. This is my favorite memory because after this game I felt that other teams really recognized Dwight-Englewood volleyball as great competition, and it was the catalyst for the next three seasons of great D-E volleyball.
Congratulations on your commitment to Yale. Tell us about why Yale was the best college choice for you.
Thank you! I chose Yale because I felt that it was the best combination of high academics and competitive athletics. I knew that I would be challenged on and off the court, and that was something very important to me when looking at schools. Finally, when I got on Yale’s campus, it felt like a place where I could see myself playing and going to school for four years.
Which player last season was the toughest competitor that you faced and why?
I wouldn’t say that there was a specific player that was the toughest competitor, but rather the whole Hudson Catholic team. I think that they are a very well-rounded team, and it was definitely a challenge to face them twice this season. When we play them, we tend to make a lot of errors and become our own enemy. So, when we played them both times this year, we were able to focus on our own technique, and ultimately succeed.
What is your planned major and what do you want to do after graduating?
I plan to major in Psychology, and take the Pre-Med track. After graduating, I am looking to attend medical school and see where I want to go from there.
Yale grads can become great influencers. What platform or message would you like to share with the NJ volleyball community?
My message to the NJ volleyball community is to be persistent. In the volleyball world, volleyball on the East Coast isn’t always taken as seriously. And so, I think that if NJ teams and players continue to work hard and push boundaries, NJ volleyball can become a powerhouse and produce top tier players.
What words of advice do you have for current high school players?
My advice for current high school players is to make sure you continue to have fun while you are playing the game. As Dwight-Englewood volleyball became more pronounced, our team began to feel all this pressure to continue to win and be great. However, in the process we began to lose the fun we had to begin with and we had to remember to always go back to that. To high school players, I would advise you to enjoy the game because four years go by so fast.
Yale has had amazing success over the past two decades on the volleyball court with a major reason being Head Coach Erin Appleman. How influential was Coach on your decision to go to Yale?
Yale’s Head Coach, Erin Appleman, was certainly influential in my decision to go to Yale. I wanted to play for a coach who was driven, and really wanted me on the team as a player and person. I think that Coach Appleman definitely showed me that, and her history of producing amazing teams was a factor in my decision.
What was your reaction to the Ivy League’s announcement to cancel Fall sports for the 2020 year due to health concerns from COVID? Could this be a blessing in disguise?
At first, I was definitely upset about the decision to cancel Ivy League volleyball, but I also completely understand why it was made. Due to the serious health concerns, we will be practicing and conditioning in small groups. I think that this may turn out to be a good thing because I will be able to get acclimated to the practice style and my new course load, without the busy game schedule.
Tell us about your high school coach at DE?
For my first three years of high school, my head volleyball coach was Morgan Withrow. Ms. Withrow introduced me to John Wooden’s book: Wooden, which talks about life lessons that you can use in volleyball and in life. Dwight-Englewood volleyball lives by this book and it is very important in the way we practice and play. Ms. Withrow has taught me how important it is to put the team first, and that everyone on the team contributes to the wins and the losses. My final year of high school volleyball, my head coach was Tyler Singh, and using Wooden, she carried on Withrow’s legacy and led us to another successful D-E volleyball year. Coach Tyler relied on us seniors to show the underclassmen what it means to be a bulldog, and she really made us step up and be leaders.
Tell us about your club experience and your Club Coach at Digs?
I have played club volleyball at DIGS since I was 13 years old. I started out on the 15 red team, and I just completed my final year on the 18 red team. Throughout my time at DIGS, I have been coached by Steve, Warren, Heather, Rachel, and Bill. This year in 18’s, Warren coached us and he really set a high standard for us to compete at. Because we are the oldest ones in the club, we held not only ourselves accountable, but the younger girls as well. Warren had us focus on being disciplined in our skills because the little things are what win games.
How influential have your Parents been on your academic and volleyball careers?
My parents have been very influential in my academic and volleyball careers. Both of my parents pursued higher education, and from a very young age, they taught me to focus on my academics first. I think this pushed me to always strive to be just as great in the classroom as on the court. My parents always encouraged me to work to my fullest potential and as a result, I have always held myself to a higher standard.
How are you and your family dealing with current world situation with COVID-19?
Because both of my parents are healthcare workers, they have been very active during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, my siblings and I have begun to take up new interests in quarantine. I have done lots of puzzles, learned new songs to play on the piano, and even tried to do some art. One good thing about quarantine is that I have a lot more free time to workout and practice in the backyard.
What is your favorite volleyball story?
My favorite volleyball story is winning regionals my 17’s club year. The tournament format was double elimination, and we had lost our first game in three sets. But, after that game we had a team meeting and we decided to change our mindset. From then on, we won every single game in three sets. In the final, we beat the team who we had lost to in our first game, and won the championship. This is my favorite memory because it just shows unpredictable volleyball can be and it all depends on what you do in each game and how hard you work for it.
We lost count of all your volleyball awards… can you recap them for us?
Throughout my volleyball career, I have had so many great opportunities to gain recognition because of my teammates and my coaches. For high school, I have been named first team all league four times. I have received first team all-county three times and third team all county my freshman year. Also, I was the 2018 NJIC player of the year and I have received 1st and 2nd team all-state. I was able to reach 1000+ career kills and end my high school career holding 6 school records. During my club career, I was a regional champ my 17’s year, and my 18’s year, we came in second place. Finally, in 2018, I had the opportunity to compete on the top team at the USA A1 High Performance Championships.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I have played volleyball since I was 9 years old. After trying crew, basketball, and many more sports, I finally decided that volleyball was for me. I began playing in the fourth grade on a regional team. That year we only had one tournament and I don’t think we won a single game, but I loved every second of it. From then on, I knew that I wanted to continue to play volleyball for as long as I could.