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Volleyball: Westminster's Widener, Liberty's Leiner making plans to play at next level

Volleyball: Westminster's Widener, Liberty's Leiner making plans to play at next level
Liberty's Lydia Leiner returns a ball during the third game of the Lions' match against Winters Mill on Sept. 11, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Jilienne Widener and Lydia Leiner have been putting up impressive numbers over the past few seasons as two of Carroll County’s top high school volleyball players.

Now those two have made their plans to continue playing at the next level.

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Leiner, a senior at Liberty High School, last week signed a national letter of intent with Division II Clarion University and plans to play for the Golden Eagles in 2019.

Meanwhile, Widener, a junior at Westminster High School, gave Brown University a verbal commitment in mid-December.

Leiner is a three-time Times first-team all-county selection. The 5-foot-9 hitter racked up 830 kills over those three seasons, from her sophomore to senior years.

Last fall, Leiner led the Carroll County Athletic League with 353 kills and averaged 5.8 per set. She helped Liberty to a 10-6 record (7-5 CCAL).

She played varsity as a freshman and was part of the Lions’ run to the Class 2A state semifinals.

Leiner said her high school success surprised her somewhat, but she’s glad it led to more opportunities.

“It was a little more than I expected,” she said. “I don’t know, I just didn’t really expect to get as good as I am now. I’m very surprised at my progress.”

Leiner said Clarion was a good fit because the northwestern Pennsylvania school featured a good computer science program, and Leiner intends to major in that field.

“I really like how homey it feels,” Leiner said about the campus. “The team is really nice and the coach really cares about us. She wants to make sure that we are the best players that we can be.”

Clarion went 22-12 last fall under coach Jennifer Herron, and reached the NCAA tournament’s Atlantic Regional.

Leiner said it feels good to have her college choice out of the way, and she’ll be able to relax more for the remainder of her senior year. She plays club volleyball for Baltimore Elite.

Westminster's Jilienne Widener, left, and Tatum Keck slap hads with teammates following their win over Winters Mill in Westminster Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018.
Westminster's Jilienne Widener, left, and Tatum Keck slap hads with teammates following their win over Winters Mill in Westminster Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Widener’s recent decision isn’t final yet, but the Westminster standout seems all but ready to head to Brown as soon as she’s able.

She had a connection to the Ivy League school in coach Ahen Kim, who used to coach Widener’s Washington, DC-based Metro volleyball club’s under-17 squad.

“He was one of the people who actually told me to come to the club,” said Widener, who joined Metro for her under-14 year. “He left in the middle of last season to coach for Brown … he started talking to me and said, ‘Hey, I really want you to come to the school.’”

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Widener said she’d think about it, then took one official visit to the Providence, Rhode Island school before making her decision.

“I just loved the environment there,” Widener said. “All the girls were so welcoming, and it just felt like home.”

Widener used her all-around ability to become a court leader for Westminster in 2018 — the 6-footer totaled 327 kills, 134 digs, and 23 blocks. She averaged 5.8 kills per set, tied with Leiner for the best in Carroll, and added 2.4 digs.

Westminster shared the CCAL championship this past season, and Widener led the team to the 3A state tournament for a second year in a row.

She’ll enter her senior year with 966 career kills, and three consecutive Times Player of the Year honors.

Widener can make her college plans official in November, but for now she’s glad things came to be quickly, and focused on her club team and staying sharp.

“It definitely makes it a lot easier,” she said. “And especially in club, because all these big tournaments you go to, they’re all for recruiting for all the college coaches. Now I can just have fun with it. This season has already been so fun, because I don’t have that stress on my shoulders.”

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