December 17, 2018

Volleyball player seeks successful transition into basketball

Hayley Taylor hung up her volleyball jersey for the season after the Gorloks lost to Greenville University in this year’s conference tournament. She stepped right back on the court, this time wearing a basketball jersey.

Taylor went from being No. 33 for Webster University’s volleyball team to No. 50 for the women’s basketball team in just a few days. Now, Taylor gets to post up as a center for basketball instead of being a middle hitter for volleyball.

Taylor’s favorite of the two, she said, depends on which sport she is playing at the moment.

“If you asked me three weeks ago, I would’ve said volleyball,” Taylor said. “But now that I’m in basketball season, yeah, basketball.”

Webster recruited Taylor for basketball. After her freshman season, Taylor added volleyball onto her schedule.

Taylor missed the first basketball game, an exhibition against Missouri University of Science and Technology, because volleyball was still in session. After that, Taylor had some catching up to do on the basketball court.

Taylor missed the first two weeks of basketball practice this season. She said she started going into the gym three times a week for extra shooting for 45 minutes to an hour. After practice, Taylor said she stays to go over plays with head coach Jordan Olufson and a few other players.

Taylor only played in 11 games her freshman season because of injuries. Olufson said her decision to play volleyball set her back for this year’s basketball season.

Olufson said he told Taylor the challenges of playing two sports, such as missing the first weeks of practice. Taylor said she is determined to prove to Olufson that she can be a productive player even with the time she missed at the beginning of the season.

“If we think Hayley could be a highly productive player for us right away, we don’t see that until Nov. 15,” Olufson said. “By then we’ve already done our scrimmages, our preseason, and opening weekend.”

Another challenge Olufson mentioned was getting into basketball shape. Olufson said each sport requires a different stamina and Taylor had less time to get into basketball shape before the start of the season.

Taylor watched on the sideline for most of Monday’s practice as the team prepared for its next game. Olufson said Taylor took a big step forward toward the rest of the season even though she could not participate in much of the practice.

Webster’s Head Volleyball Coach Merry Graf said she gave Taylor the option to play for the volleyball team but did not want to force it on her.

“I definitely wanted to respect the fact that she was recruited by our basketball coach and not poach her from their program,” Graf said. “However, I knew she had potential to compete for us if she was interested.”

Graf said Taylor’s six-foot-one-inch frame and long arms stuck out as something Taylor could use to compete on the volleyball court.

Graf said she thought Taylor was not interested in being a two-sport collegiate athlete since she did not play volleyball her freshman year. Taylor watched a few volleyball games last year and said she realized how much she missed her high school volleyball days.

Taylor played with the volleyball team for their spring season her freshman year. After the first tournament, she said she knew she was going to play volleyball.

“I’m like, this is too fun,” Taylor said. “I can’t give this up.”

Taylor said she received a scholarship offer to play basketball for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I school. Despite the scholarship money and Division I status, Taylor chose Webster.

Taylor had offers from Rend Lake College and Kaskaskia College for volleyball. Those offers, Taylor said, were backups for her in case she did not take any of her basketball offers.

Taylor said this year has been slightly overwhelming playing two sports, but only because she wasn’t ready for volleyball to be over.

Taylor’s social life suffers, she said, but spending her time as a two-sport collegiate athlete is worth it in the end.

“I love the friends that I make,” Taylor said. “That’s definitely helped.”

Wednesday’s matchup against crosstown rival Fontbonne University will be the first game Taylor is eligible to play in this season.

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