Lyall blossoms into star at Sehome

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 25, 2013 

26 All-Whatcom VOL

Sehome's Taylor Lyall is our All-Whatcom County Volleyball Player of the Year.Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013 in Bellingham.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Sehome's Taylor Lyall is as powerful as she is athletic, standing an imposing 6-foot-1 and boasting a wingspan that would make most collegiate volleyball coaches gawk in amazement.

But her ascension to becoming one of the most feared hitters/defenders/servers/and everything else possible on a volleyball court has little to do with her physical talents. It's everything else.

"She was just so coachable - so willing to go in and work hard," said Mariners coach Kristy White of what she remembers of Lyall as a freshman. "She was so willing to put in the work. ... I knew she was going to be great."

In her case, potential and reality came together.

Lyall, who led Sehome to a fourth-place finish at the Class 2A State Volleyball Championships while helping the Mariners to a 17-4 overall record and a second-place finish in the Northwest Conference, has been chosen as the All-Whatcom County Volleyball Player of the Year.

Any thoughts Lyall had as a freshman imagining her senior year didn't involve volleyball in the slightest. She was indifferent about the sport she hardly knew, choosing to direct her focus to basketball.

"Basketball (had) always been my main sport," Lyall said in a phone interview. "I was kind of just trying volleyball ... and I realized how much I liked volleyball and how much I liked to play it more than basketball."

As the old but true cliché goes: One person's loss is another person's gain, and it just happened to happen with a pair of sisters coaching two different sports at the same high school.

White's sister had been coaching the junior varsity girls' basketball team when Lyall was called up to varsity her freshman year.

"She came in as a basketball player and left here a volleyball player," White likes to say.

The work rarely started when practice began and ended when it was over for the senior outside hitter. Lyall spent much of her offseason training not only on her club team in Anacortes, but in the weight room trying to get stronger and faster, White said.

"She takes strength and conditioning, which is not something that is required of volleyball players," White said. "She's in (the weight room) all the time, being a role model, lifting weights and running some stairs."

She's taken that mentality to her game, too, diversifying it with an approach as analytical as an accountant mulling over tax statements.

The off-seasons for Lyall since she became whole-heartedly invested in volleyball her sophomore year are more memorable not by what she did with her spare time, but by what part of her game that year she decided to address.

"That first year, I worked a lot on defense," said Lyall, adding that her junior season she addressed her setting and serving.

What Lyall became was a Swiss Army knife of sorts for White and her Sehome teammates.

"She came in, 'How am I going to be more productive?'" said White, who regularly had opposing coaches approach her in bewilderment, wondering how Lyall was such a gifted setter, too.

All of that supplemented what White believed to be Lyall's most important trait: Her leadership.

Four years ago, Lyall stepped on to the volleyball court a timid, shy and quiet girl. Lyall still recalls her first varsity game as a freshman, standing beside tested juniors and seniors who commanded the huddles and had dominating presences.

"She (White) put me in, and I was so nervous," Lyall said. "I was just really quiet on the court and kind of let all the seniors do what they normally did, and I tried to play."

In the Mariners' most recent run to the Class 2A State Volleyball Championship semifinals, the only thing more pronounced than Lyall's kills was her presence amongst her teammates. During changeovers and following matches in the two-day long tournament, her voice stood as one of the most powerful in the packed gym at Pierce Community College.

"You (saw) her bloom," said White of Lyall growing in to her role as a leader. "It's fun to see because she came in pretty shy and quiet, but definitely isn't now."

Neither was her impact on the Mariners' success, making the state tournament three consecutive years with Lyall on the outside.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports news.

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