Less than 24 hours remained until IU volleyball would be wheels up, headed to Las Vegas for its opening invitational.
An offseason filled with workouts, practices and preparation was done, and the next thing in line for the team was regular season play.
But not for sophomore Bayli Lebo.
After the final practice before heading out, the sound of a volleyball hitting the University Gym floor echoed throughout the arena as Lebo worked overtime on her passing.
“Just working on my serve receive, I’ve always wanted to get better at that,” Lebo said. “Trying to get more confident with serve receive, and fine-tuning things that I know I need to get better at.”
However, the hard work was about much more than returning serves.
For Lebo, it isn’t just about becoming a better player each day. It is about a legacy – her own legacy.
Her entire life she has been compared to her sister, Taylor, who also dominated the court in their home town of La Porte, Indiana, and at IU.
However, that’s not who Bayli Lebo is. She’s not a replica of her sister.
“For the longest time in high school, people would come up to me and ask ‘oh, who’s better, you or your sister?’” Lebo said. “I was looking at IU, but at the same time I did not want to come here because everyone would know Taylor.”
Ultimately, she was not afraid of the challenge of making her own stamp on the IU volleyball program.
“I just fell in love with this place,” Lebo said. “I didn’t care whether my sister went here or not. I truly did want to make a name for myself. That was the deciding factor.”
However, there is no tension between the sisters. As Lebo follows a similar path of majoring in human biology, her sister is always by her side to help when needed.
“I knew little details before coming in freshman year, more than other people,” Lebo said. “I would be lost without knowing simple stuff that my sister would tell me.”
Her sophomore year, Lebo became more comfortable at libero and is continuing to build that legacy even in the short amount of time this season.
Lebo already set a new career high in digs when she had 24 against Northern Iowa on Sept. 7.
“Most Big Ten players come in as freshmen who were the stars of their team in high school,” Lebo said. “It’s a lot different, just trying to work on things every single day to get my confidence up and keep it that way.”
IU’s libero now finds herself about three to four hours away from home – which she describes as close enough to home, but also far enough away – but she finds ways to feel connected.
Lebo said she enjoys spending time at Lake Monroe and Griffy Lake, where she can rent a paddleboard.
She would prefer to bring her own paddleboard that she often uses back home, but she doesn’t quite agree with still having to pay to use it on the lake.
“When I’m home, I like to go to the beach a lot,” Lebo said. “I obviously miss my family, but the biggest thing about my hometown is the lake. There’s nothing like Lake Michigan.”
Throughout her club team days with the Dunes, Lebo played under many coaches including Rick Ashmore and Kevin Lane.
Lane no longer coaches for the Dunes, but he and the team made their impact on Lebo during her time there.
“He changed my passing completely, for the better,” Lebo said. “I’ve became a much better player because of him. My teammates too, a core of us stayed together for a while and pushed each other.”
In her time at IU, she has already dealt with two coaching staffs. As a recruit from the days of Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan, Lebo has had to adjust to the new coaching staff under Coach Steve Aird.
“She’s at the beginning of a pretty long, solid career if she does the right things,” Aird said. “She plays the game hard. It’s the attention to detail, it’s the everyday mentality. If she keeps doing what she’s doing, she’s going to keep improving."
Aird’s goal of getting his players to buy into his message of getting 1-percent better each day is something that Lebo said has been easy for her.
“As soon as you walk into the gym, even if you’re a player, coach or someone who has no idea about volleyball, you are so bought in to what he’s saying,” Lebo said. “Every day, I want to come in and try my best for him because he’s doing his best for all of us.”
But just as much as she appreciates his personality, the feeling is mutual toward her.
“She’s a bubbly, happy kid,” Aird said. “She never makes my day worse.”
Lebo said that one of her favorite parts of coming to IU has been the multitude of friends she has been able to make on and off the court.
As Big Ten Conference play is underway, Lebo’s goal on the court will be focused on helping her team reach its potential.
“I want to focus more on that, to try to get us where we want to be in the Big Ten,” Lebo said. "Just growing every day, then worry about myself and what my goals are going to be.”
With each serve receive, she will look to make a perfect pass and dig into a deeper legacy.
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