Prep volleyball: Taylorsville counts on young leadership
Taylorsville • Tasia Taylor and Tara Gregory are the acknowledged leaders of the Taylorsville girls volleyball team, which are rare positions for a sophomore and junior, respectively.
Young and talented leadership is an easy fit for the "Dynamic Duo," who also are two of the shortest outside hitters in the state.
"It's pretty easy to lead when the team supports you," said Taylor, who was voted team captain.
The reason for this trust in both players, who are close friends even though they play for different club teams, is simple to understand. Both were vital parts of last year's run to third place in the state in Class 5A. Second, Taylorsville has but one senior this year and a host of young, eager learners.
"At first, I thought [this year] was going to be tough," Taylor said. "But when I saw our first practice, I thought, 'We're really going to be good.' Just seeing this team, we're going to improve."
It also appears that 2012 is playing out much like 2011, when the Warriors finished the regular season by going 10-0 in Region 2 play. Taylorsville again opened region play with four consecutive victories after early failure in high-octane tournaments.
Taylor is more suited to a libero or setter role at 5 foot 6. In a perfect situation, that's the position she'd play for Taylorsville coach Rich Kaelin.
Taylor brings too many other intangibles to Taylorsville's attack.
"She's got great hands be a great setter," Kaelin said. "But we would lose her defense. She averages 30 to 35 digs a match. She's controlling the ball so others get kills."
Gregory, who maybe pushes 5-7 and also is undersized for her position, eagerly accepts her role as a leader.
"We knew we had a couple good girls," Gregory said. "They've been coming along really well.
"It's a lot of fun playing for Taylorsville and to have a coach who actually knows what to do."
Kaelin has had to blend a team from five new players and a roster including 13 sophomores and freshmen. He's building a team that relies on defense and forces the opponent into making mistakes.
The Warriors are content to send the ball back over the net to create more opportunities for easier kills when poor returns or passing creates scoring chances for Taylor, Gregory and the team's lone senior, Dani Ahlstrom.
"When we're having fun and talking to each other, then we do well," Kaelin said. "We're just trying to get better. We're trying to teach these kids to have fun. We're also trying to teach them how to play defense."
It would be easy to look down the road a year or two, to see the promise of Taylorsville's future in girls volleyball. Don't tell that to the Warriors.
"We are surprising people," Taylor said. "If we play our game, we can go far this season."