With family, friends, current and former coaches looking on, Escalon High School senior Taylor Laugero signed her Letter of Intent and committed to playing volleyball as a Santa Clara University Bronco for the next four years.
The standout senior – who has been running around a gym playing volleyball since before she started kindergarten – will receive a 50 percent scholarship for the Division I school, the University paying for two of her four years there.
The soon-to-be Bronco is excited for the opportunity and proud that she will be attending the alma mater of her dad, Jeff Laugero.
The entire Laugero family, dad Jeff, mom (and former coach) Irene and Taylor welcomed in a standing room only crowd in the small meeting room at Escalon’s Pizza Plus on Wednesday evening, Nov. 11 for the National Signing Day ceremony.
“I’ve coached Taylor, this is my second year, but she has been in my gym since she was 8 years old,” said Pacific Coast Volleyball Club travel volleyball head coach Tiger Shelton, who is also the Ripon Christian high school coach.
When she was eight, Taylor played on an under 11 team that Shelton was affiliated with and he said of those team members, seven are now playing college volleyball. Taylor will soon join their ranks.
Shelton isn’t surprised she will move from EHS to Division I college ball.
“She has an extremely high volleyball IQ,” he explained. “That’s what’s amazing about her. She understands the level of the game she’s playing and she plays a little bit better than anybody else.”
Shelton, who is friends with Santa Clara head coach John Wallace, said as he grew to know more about Taylor, he realized what a great fit she would be for the Bronco program.
“They are good people, it’s a good volleyball program, I’m very excited for her,” Shelton said.
For her part, the four-year EHS varsity player said she remembers being involved in the sport forever, especially since her mom coached at multiple levels, both with the Escalon school district and travel teams.
“I started playing with my mom in the living room when I was four,” Taylor said, chuckling at the memory of learning to dig balls around the furniture. “Competitively I have played for eight years.”
And while most teens don’t start thinking about life after high school until their sophomore or junior year, Taylor started a bit sooner.
“I would say probably seventh grade,” she said of thinking about utilizing the sport to continue her education. “I just had a love for the game, a passion; I knew it would be in my future.”
Now with the opportunity to have two of four years at the university paid for through the volleyball scholarship, she couldn’t be happier.
She will be going pre-med, but hasn’t decided where she wants to end up in a career.
“If the professional (volleyball) pipeline is in my future, I’ll know that at Santa Clara,” she said of keeping her options open. Once volleyball is over, medical school will take center stage.
Longtime EHS teacher and coach Rusty Fachner, who retired last year, coached Taylor at a young age but has stayed close by and saw the progression from young talent to gifted athlete.
“On the court, Taylor is the consummate athlete. She works hard, plays hard, and leads by example. Taylor is inspirational in that she is positive in her approach to things and that she is a true supporter of her team and teammates,” Fachner said. “We have been fortunate in the past to have quite a few volleyball players go on to play at D-1 colleges and universities. Adding Taylor to the list only adds to the legacy of excellence the volleyball program at Escalon High School has achieved.
“Taylor isn’t 6 feet tall, nor does she hit a volleyball 100 mph. She has a skill set that is vital to ‘winning volleyball,’ thus the scholarship. Taylor may not realize it yet, but she really is a role model for younger volleyball players.”
With the university being close enough to home for her parents to get to games, Taylor is looking forward to playing at the next level and having her support system close by.
“I truly feel I’ve prepared myself for the college level,” Taylor said. “Classes and court time, I feel I will be able to balance it relatively well.”
She also noted the efforts of coach Shelton in getting her pointed in the direction of Santa Clara.
“He brought Santa Clara to me,” she explained. “He said ‘I see you at this school’ and I had been there with my dad, we visited, I met the team, the coaches, it was absolutely incredible.”
She will live in a dorm her first year on campus and is looking forward to the entire college experience.
“It’s only an hour and 40 minutes away, we are also close to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, I can also come home, it’s pretty exciting,” Taylor said.
Fachner added that although he only officially served as Taylor’s coach when she was with the Impact Volleyball Club, she often discussed the game with him and they would also work through scenarios as she studied the game and her performance.
“Many times Taylor makes things on the volleyball court look so easy that it is taken for granted, or simply attributed to her athletic ability. While that is partly true, many people do not realize the time and energy that Taylor has invested into making herself such a good athlete,” Fachner explained. “She spends countless hours perfecting her game. Taylor focuses on small details and leaves nothing to chance when it comes to making herself better. Time without talent, and talent without invested time, are nothing. Taylor is the perfect blend of the two.”