From the time she was very young, Taylor Gibson has been involved in volleyball, and her mother, Nicci, was always a big part of her career.
Nicci Gibson helped teach Taylor the sport and served as an assistant coach at La Salle-Peru during Taylor’s career when she helped the Cavaliers to two state tournament berths and won NewsTribune Volleyball Player of the Year as a senior in 2015.
The Gibsons still are involved in volleyball together.
Nicci Gibson took over as the Mendota volleyball coach before the spring 2021 season and Taylor served as a volunteer assistant.
Over the summer, the Mendota sophomore coaching job opened, and Taylor took the position.
“I’ve always wanted to get into coaching eventually,” said Taylor, who played NCAA Division I volleyball at Wright State. “I wasn’t looking for a coaching job now, but it did open up, so I was like ‘I’ll coach under my mom, help the varsity, and we can make a program better.’
“Honestly, it’s been so amazing working under her. Everything she does, I feed off. It’s so easy to work with her. We just get each other. We’re knowledgeable, we’re motivated and we complement each other. It’s super fun.”
The Gibsons have helped Mendota to a 9-3 start through Monday.
“It’s a true blessing to be with my daughter each and every day,” Nicci Gibson said. “To have her knowledge in our program with what we’re trying to build at Mendota is just top of the line. She’s the best.”
FIRST TO DOUBLE DIGITS
With its 25-10, 25-10 rout of Hall on Monday, Princeton became the first area team to get to 10 wins.
The Tigers now are 10-1 overall and 5-0 in the Three Rivers Conference East Division.
Nine of Princeton’s 10 wins have come in straight sets with the lone three-setter coming against St. Bede. The Tigers’ lone loss was a two-setter against Newman in the Rock Falls tournament.
Princeton has relied on talented setter Katie Bates, who leads the area in assists at 10.2 a set, a strong defense led by Abby Peterson (5.6 digs a set, second in the area) and an array of hitting options in Mckenzie Hecht (3 kills a set), Olivia Gartin (2.7 a set), Maya Gartin (2.3 a set) and Madison Richards (2.3 a set), who all rank top 10 in the area in kills.
FACING LARGER SCHOOLS
Earlville had an opportunity to face a couple of much larger schools at the Rochelle tournament Sept. 4.
Earlville, a school of 132 students, faced Ottawa (1,245 students) and McHenry (2,144 students), which accounted for the Red Raiders’ only two losses of the season so far.
The Red Raiders lost, 23-25, 25-23, 16-14, to the Pirates and, 25-9, 25-15, to the Warriors.
“Playing those bigger schools allows us to work on our skills and take our game to the next level,” Earlville coach Tonya Scherer said.
The Red Raiders are 9-2 overall and 3-0 in the Little Ten Conference.
“The girls have been working hard at practice,” Scherer said. “They were very successful during the spring season but have been working on certain aspects of their game that needed to improve. I think our strong serving game, good defense and great offense have been a few keys to our success so far. The girls work extremely well together, hustle and have a big desire to win. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Last school year, when volleyball season was pushed to the spring, several Henry-Senachwine athletes decided to go out for cross country to fill the void.
They returned to volleyball this fall but kept running as well and are now pulling double duty.
Senior Nakeita Kessling leads the area in kills at 3.9 a set and has also been one of the area’s top runners when she competes.
She placed an area-best 18th in 22:01 at the Oregon Invitational on Sept. 4.
Senior Hope Self is second in the area in assists per set (8.7) for the Mallards (6-3, 1-1 Tri-County Conference) and also placed top 25 at the Oregon Invitational, finishing 23rd in 22:21.
MiKayla Frawley also is doubling as a varsity volleyball player and cross country runner. She has 28 digs in 13 sets on the volleyball court while placing 36 in 23:51 at the Oregon Invitational.
After going winless in the spring 2021 season, Hall was looking to turn its fortunes around.
The Red Devils may have taken a step toward that with a second-place finish Saturday at the Midland Invitational.
“We serve received really well and served aggressively,” Hall coach Darcy Earley said. “Our libero, Katelyn Pullam, really outdid herself. She was all over the court for anything and everything. Even some impossible touches she got up. We hope it built some confidence in everyone to just go for it on every play. They were exhausted at the end of the day, and I feel pretty confident that if we didn’t lose Ella (Taliani) after the second match, we would have won the tournament. Everyone contributed, and it was a team effort for sure.”