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All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year: Maya Taylor, Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls junior outside hitter Maya Taylor is the Post Register's All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year for the second year in a row. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

Idaho Falls junior outside hitter Maya Taylor is the Post Register’s All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year for the second year in a row. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

Life is moving fast for Maya Taylor.

Entering the 2015 volleyball season, the Idaho Falls High School junior outside hitter was a state champion with an opportunity to defend that title. She had also received more than 60 letters from colleges, ultimately committing to a full-ride scholarship from Division I St. Louis University.

A little more than two months later, Taylor joined I.F.’s volleyball elite by becoming a repeat state champion as part of the Tigers’ third state title in five seasons and sixth in program history.

Three years at I.F. have brought monumental experiences — especially within the last year — but it’s what she’s always wanted.

“I didn’t know it was gonna happen, but I’ve definitely dreamed about it for a really, really long time,” Taylor said. “It’s weird. You grow up and things start happening for you. It’s nice.”

As those dreams have unfolded, Taylor has become a regular conversation piece among coaches. The 5-foot-11 junior had 51 aces, 59 blocks, 42 assists and 304 digs and led the 38-6 Tigers with 503 kills this fall.

The repeat state champion earned another repeat as the 2015 Post Register All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year. The last athlete to receive the honor back-to-back was 2010 Bonneville graduate and former Idaho State libero Kylee Searle Sessions.

“I think as far as anyone we played this year, she has more power than anybody,” Madison coach Meranda Maestas said. “She’s not just hard to read, she’s strong. I just really enjoy watching her play.”

Last year, Taylor’s hard-driven kills that echoed across the gym led coaches to ask, “She’s only a sophomore?” This year, the most frequently asked question to Idaho Falls coach Wendy Johnson was, “Where is she playing in college?”

Johnson has answered questions like those since Taylor made her varsity debut as a freshman, and she has seen firsthand the work behind the highlight reel moments.

“Maya doesn’t take her talent for granted by any means,” Johnson said. “She still has to work extremely hard in the gym not only to improve herself, but to help her teammates improve and get themselves on the same page with volleyball IQ. I think she can still add a little more power onto that hit. That’s scary to think about.”

That strength wreaked havoc as Taylor created one of this year’s most powerful outside hitter duos with senior Kaydre Thompson. The graduation of Bailee Mills left a vacancy, and Thompson played nearly every front row position during club season for Johnson. The former middle blocker excelled at outside hitter.

“After club was over, I went ‘Yep,’ ” Johnson said. “It is that 1-2 punch.”

Taylor said she was not surprised at how well her good friend made the switch.

“I was actually impressed,” Taylor said. “We feed off each other. If I’m off, she would help me and if she was off, I’d help her.”

The Thompson-Taylor combination prompted double and occasional triple blocks. When Taylor did get blocked, loud celebration erupted from across the net.

Those cheers prompted a conversation that Johnson won’t soon forget.

“She asked me, ‘Why do they get excited when they block me?’ because they block other people,’ ” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Maya honey, really? You’re good. You’re dang good. Heck, I’d cheer up and down.’”

Taylor shook off blocks in the past. Now they provide motivation.

“Honestly, I keep it in my head,” Taylor said. “I know the next time, I’m gonna get it.”

Johnson said she has coached three others who played with the same intensity as Taylor — her daughter Kiarra, Caitlyn Anderson and Christine Collette. Anderson and Collette were part of I.F.’s three-peat from 2003 to 2005 and Kiarra was part of the 2011 championship with her older sister, Kaitlyn and Maya’s older sister, Marley.

Now I.F.’s JV coach, Kiarra was on the bench for the 5A state tournament at Post Falls High School. In 2013, Kiarra was a senior setter and Taylor was a freshman outside hitter on the I.F. team which lost the championship to Lewiston in that gym.

“I remember her crying after that game,” Taylor said. “I knew it was not gonna happen again.”

Mixed in with the jubilation after I.F.’s epic five-set state championship win over conference foe Bonneville was some deja vu. Directing Taylor from the bench was Kiarra, who did the same for her on the court in 2013.

“I swear it was a total flashback,” Johnson said. “Maya was hitting exactly where Kiarra told her to.”

Preparing for college is the next focus for Taylor, who has three-peat ambitions despite I.F.’s move from 5A to 4A. Her biggest dream is to play professionally, preferably overseas.

“I just want to keep upping my game,” Taylor said. “I need to keep working, getting stronger and better.”

Header photo: Idaho Falls junior outside hitter Maya Taylor is the Post Register’s All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year for the second straight year. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com).

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