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Pain and gain: Injuries couldn't stop Billings Senior's Leela Ormsby from securing future at Michigan State

Leela Ormsby Michigan state.jpeg
Posted at 5:12 PM, Jan 26, 2024

BILLINGS — The nadir for Leela Ormsby came last October when, in the midst of another steller volleyball campaign at Billings Senior, a fractured fibula sidelined her for the remainder of the season.

It was the second time a calamity had placed Ormsby on the shelf in a six-month span. And it happened when she took a tumble while slipping on ice.

"I would say that was one of the hardest things that I've mentally had to go through in my life, just with, in my mind, how much is riding on my volleyball career," said Ormsby, who suffered a sprained ankle in April that ended her club season and slowed her summer progress.

"Being put out of the game twice in that quick of a time period was more mentally rough than it was physically. It was a low point, absolutely."

It's always darkest before the dawn, and Ormsby, a 6-foot-3 middle who'll be a senior next year, is feeling as bright as she ever has after verbally committing Thursday to play college volleyball at Michigan State in the powerful Big Ten.

Already one of the top prospects in Montana prior to her commitment to the Spartans, Ormsby had a myriad of college offers to pore over. That was made possible by growing her game as a member of the vaunted Bozeman-based Big Sky Volleyball Club and by helping Senior to a Class AA state title as a sophomore.

Michigan State, though, came into Ormsby's recruiting orbit later than most. Head coach Leah Johnson has only been at the helm of the Spartans' program for two seasons now, though Ormsby followed that coaching staff's progress when it was taking Illinois State to four straight NCAA appearances.

Now that she's committed, Ormsby says she's secure in her future. It's a different feeling than the one she held three months prior.

"We went on a visit in December and East Lansing just felt like home," she said. "The coaching staff was amazing, and I want to be competing with the best in the Big Ten. There wasn't another place I connected with as much. I know the future is really bright, and I'm so excited to end up somewhere that feels like home."

The Big Ten is one of the most elite volleyball conferences in Division I. The league has a combined 49 Final Four appearances and 13 national titles to its credit. Ormsby is not one to shy away from that kind of competition.

"Honestly, it's beyond-words exciting," she said. "Playing against the best makes you the best, and the (Big Ten) is where I wanted to see myself going. Knowing that I'm going to be a part of that sooner than later, it's incredible. There's a long way to go and a lot to learn, but this is one of the best opportunities of my life."

A top net defender for coach Courtney Bad Bear at Senior, Ormsby is a two-time first-team Class AA all-state selection. She earned first-team acclaim last year despite her season-ending injury.

Without Ormsby, Billings Senior missed the state tournament last season for the first time since 2004. So Ormsby has goals to accomplish in high school before she sets foot on Michigan State's campus for real later this year.

"Overall, I'm just ready to come for some revenge with Senior High, you know?" Ormsby said. "And also to be a part of the Bronc legacy — to have one last year to kind of prove that I belong and prove that Senior High is just a historic program.

"I'm looking forward to coming back healthy. And I'm going to be able to play and compete without worrying at all where I'll end up. I'm blessed for that."