LAPORTE | Perched atop a stationary bicycle, day after day through nine long months of rehab, Taylor Lebo couldn't stop thinking about her return to the volleyball court.
Lebo missed the entire 2011 high school volleyball season, and most of the following club season, after tearing her ACL.
She came back stronger, healthier, and having added two inches to her vertical leap. She said she hasn't felt a single pang of discomfort in her right knee where doctors in Bloomington took part of her hamstring to repair the anterior cruciate ligament.
Lebo can thank the injury, in part, for her senior season, in which she became one of the most decorated volleyball players in LaPorte history.
In addition to being named the AVCA Indiana Player of the Week twice, she is an Under Armour Second-Team All-American, an Indiana All-Star, first-team All-State and on the short list for the Gatorade Indiana player of the year. She is also the 2012 Times Volleyball Player of the Year.
"The one thing I wanted to come into this season was to show people that it can be done, you can come back from a big injury like that or even an emotional injury, and I've had both," Lebo said. "I think that it just shows that you can do it, and you have to work hard to be where you were. My goal was to come back better than I was, and I think a lot of people thought I wouldn't be as good and I couldn't do that because I had so many goals for the team as well as myself."
Lebo's injury sparked a work ethic that set a new standard at LaPorte, coach Erin Parker said. The senior outside hitter's desire to help her team bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season fueled her through sprints, drills and games.
"I think she will go down as the best player to ever play at this high school, to be quite honest," Parker said. "What makes her stand out is her passion for the team. She'll do anything for the team and it wasn't about her, and that showed on the court. Her defense is stellar, and (Indiana University) is getting the best libero in the country in my opinion.
"She's taught the other players what it means to work hard and I think that legacy will live on for us. ... She could easily walk in with the biggest head and say 'I don't have to work hard here because I'm Taylor,' but she never did that. That was invaluable for the freshmen and sophomores to see a girl with so much talent and it didn't matter, she still wanted to get better."
Lebo recorded 426 kills, 755 digs and 82 aces in her senior season. She notched 83 of those kills against Valparaiso alone, with 30 and 49 digs the first time the teams met.
Last season, and again this year, the Vikings ended the Slicers' season in the sectional. During the regular season, LaPorte topped Valpo, first in five games then in four, behind Lebo's tenacity.
"I learned the most from our loss to Valpo in the sectional," Lebo said. "I didn't have my best game. I felt I was prepared, but somehow mentally I wasn't, and I don't know why. ... I am still disappointed with how I played, but what I learned was to give it your all every point and don't settle for less than what you can offer."
Lebo signed with Indiana University last week, and will join the team as a libero despite playing most of her high school and club careers as an outside hitter. That she nearly doubled her kill-to-dig ratio as a senior only fuels the Hoosiers' decision to make Lebo a back-row player.
"When I was a sophomore in club, I played libero," Lebo said. "It's not that drastic to me. If they said I was playing middle blocker that'd be bigger. But they also said they want me attacking out of the back row. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it."