High School Sports

Taylor Kuruzovich has found her calling

State College girls volleyball coach Chad Weight talks to some of his players during a time out at the match against Carlisle on Tuesday, October 18, 2016.
State College girls volleyball coach Chad Weight talks to some of his players during a time out at the match against Carlisle on Tuesday, October 18, 2016. adrey@centredaily.com

Call it the family business.

If State College Area High School volleyball teams need a setter, call the Kuruzovich family.

Taylor is guiding the Lady Little Lion offense this fall to a 15-0 record heading into the weekend.

Brandon was the setter for the Little Lion boys last spring before graduating.

Younger brother Tanner, a team manager for the girls, is already getting pushed in that direction.

For the two older siblings, its what they were meant to do.

“Hitting’s fun,” Taylor said, “but I love setting.”

“The setter is the quarterback position of the volleyball team,” Brandon said. “I feel like … the setter’s the one that runs the court.”

For both, it’s about being in the middle of the action, of having the ball in their hands every play. Taylor says it definitely suits her personality on and off the court.

“I’m a perfectionist,” she said. “It’s one of my downfalls, but I think it also helps me on the court. I’m able to touch the ball on every play, and I want to get the ball where it needs to be. … I like controlling the court and the pace of everything.”

I’m a perfectionist. It’s one of my downfalls, but I think it also helps me on the court. I’m able to touch the ball on every play, and I want to get the ball where it needs to be. … I like controlling the court and the pace of everything.

Taylor Kuruzovich

While Brandon had to give it up when the Little Lions’ season ended last spring, heading off to Penn State to just be a student, Taylor is still deeply immersed in the sport as State College heads into the final days of the regular season before preparing to defend their District 6 title.

The team’s strong season and Mid Penn Conference Commonwealth Division crown is due in no small part to Taylor’s talents.

Because, as much as she loves being the setter, the Lady Little Lions need so much more from her and she doesn’t get to set as much as she would like. Yes, she leads the team with 216 assists, but she splits time at the position with Leah Henderson.

Henderson sets when she is in the back row, while Taylor sets when she is in the back. When she’s in the front, the 5-foot-8 senior is one of the team’s top hitters. Her 86 kills rank third on the team.

Head coach Chad Weight said it’s a necessity, given Taylor’s athleticism and skills.

“She made it quite obvious we need someone with some foot speed,” Weight said. “Somebody with some leadership skills, so that’s where we put her.”

Weight can see similarities with another highly-skilled setter, Suzanne Horner, who also was a part-time hitter. Horner is now the starting setter at Iowa State.

“They make some amazing plays that at times I don’t think people appreciate until maybe later,” Weight said. “To me, it’s kind of neat that there are some parallels.”

Taylor also uses her dual roles as an advantage when she returns to her setting role, and vice versa, as she studies the opposition.

“I can see different things,” Taylor said. “I’ll say, ‘Oh, maybe I can run this thing.’ I see it from a whole new perspective as a hitter — where the block is, that helps me, seeing where the defense is.”

Also broadening her volleyball IQ is working as the team manager for the boys team. Watching different players and different styles gives her new views on the game.

However, that also meant she was on the bench as her brother was running the Little Lion offense. And Brandon had the same role for the girls’ team.

So, did the siblings compare notes?

Hardly.

They may be competitive in backyard games of all sorts, but when it comes to volleyball, they mostly keep their lips sealed.

“When it comes to volleyball, he and I just kind of stay out of it,” said Taylor, whose 33 aces lead the team.

“There was some friendly competition, tell each other what’s going on,” Brandon said. “Most of the time we keep it to ourselves. We don’t talk back and forth about what we should or shouldn’t be doing. It gets on our nerves sometimes.”

While Brandon put his kneepads on a shelf, concentrating on architectural engineering this fall at Penn State, Taylor’s volleyball future will continue. She recently gave a commitment to Akron’s volleyball program.

The Zips are struggling this fall. They were 5-16 heading into their match Saturday night, but Taylor is very optimistic about second-year coach Tom Hanna, who found a good deal of success in a long tenure at Marist.

“I love where the team is going,” said Taylor, who will be walking on with the program but will officially commit to the school on national signing day Nov. 9. “I love how dedicated the players are, how dedicated the coach is.”

Yes, she plans to be just a setter there.

The position didn’t always have a great pull with her, however.

“At first I hated it,” Taylor said. “I did not want to be a setter. But Coach Weight, freshman year, pulled me over with the setters. I was like, ‘Oh, man, this isn’t what I want to do. I want to hit.’ I didn’t have a very good attitude towards it.”

As the year went on, it grew on her, and soon she was embracing the role and what it meant to be involved in every play. She also played club ball, including most recently for the Pitt Elite, meaning she had to drive to Pittsburgh three days a week.

For the sport she loves, and the position she loves, it’s worth it — and she doesn’t mind giving the extra effort.

“More than anything is her work ethic,” Weight said. “She is a very hard worker, not just here in the gym but in the offseason. She does a lot to (enhance) her skills. I’m not just talking working out, lifting weights, I’m talking one-on-ones with people to get better.”

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT

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