Lincoln Lutheran senior Hope Leimbach won’t be intimidated when she hits the state tournament floor on Thursday. She’s been there before and her connection with the state tournament goes back well before she was alive.
Leimbach’s mother, Stacy, who’s an assistant coach with the Warriors, left her mark on the Lincoln volleyball scene in 1991 as a first-team Super-State setter for Lincoln Northeast's Class A championship team. Her championship legacy has played a major part in Hope’s success on the volleyball court, even if she wasn’t the one necessarily regaling her daughter about the glory days.
“I’ve heard about my mom winning the state title a lot, especially from my dad,” the senior said. “They don’t really let me forget that she was a state champion. It makes me want to win and get to experience what she got to experience. I want to be able to say I’m a champion just like my mom was.”
It seemed inevitable Hope would follow in her mother’s footsteps, but there was a doubt early on due to a propensity for gymnastics. Once middle school hit, however, Hope began to show a talent in volleyball.
Stacy and her close friend Sue Ziegler convened to discuss Hope’s future, and it was Stacy who ended up talking Ziegler into retaking the coaching reins at Lutheran.
“Stacy got me back into coaching when (Hope) was in sixth grade,” Ziegler said. “Hope was just always in the gym with us and I would always ask Stacy if I could just put her in. She was just so good, even when she was young, so it’s been great to get to coach her and see her succeed at this level and move on to the next level.”
The position of setter runs in the family with the Leimbachs.
“Oh, I think Hope is overall a better player, I think she’s a lot more competitive than I was at this age,” said Stacy, who played in college at Concordia. “I loved the sport and wanted to win, but I probably had a calmer demeanor. I smiled a little bit more than she did.”
Hope didn’t exactly agree with her mom’s assessment, but she also didn’t disagree.
“She’s always been a big influence because she was a setter and I’m a setter. And I always wanted to be better,” she said with a smile rarely seen on the volleyball court.
The Leimbachs' relationship has instilled a family-like culture at Lutheran with all the players. It also helps that Ziegler’s daughter, Kelli, is currently an assistant coach on the team after playing for her mom during her high school days with the Warriors. The family atmosphere has led to a lot of winning.
“It’s wonderful to have family ties, and I have coached five of the current players either mothers or aunts; I added it up,” Ziegler said. “It runs thick here, and I think that allows the support system to be so influential. Like with Stacy and Hope’s bond, you can see it with all of our players during games and after games. It always feels like a reunion.”
With hopefully three matches remaining for the Warriors, the Leimbachs haven’t quite had the time to look back on all those hours spent in the gym. But as the end nears, all the memories are sure to come back.
“I’m just soaking it all in and enjoying it. It’s been such a fun ride,” Stacy said.
The Warriors open state tournament play against Columbus Scotus at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Lincoln North Star.