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Louis’ unlikely road to stardom

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Marquette Women's Volleyball vs. Iowa State

Marquette Women's Volleyball vs. Iowa State

Photo by Maggie Bean

Photo by Maggie Bean

Marquette Women's Volleyball vs. Iowa State

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Former Ohio University head volleyball coach Ryan Theis can remember standing with three other coaches watching Taylor Louis warm up. The coaches were relegated to observing her warm up because the then-high school junior was getting minimal playing time on her club volleyball team. However, she had the potential to get a look from the coaches. As the warmups began, Louis was swinging and missing the ball. Two of the coaches walked away. Theis stayed.

Theis would end up losing out on Louis to then-Marquette coach Bond Shymansky, but within a matter of months everything would get shaken up. Shymansky left Marquette to accept the head coaching job at Iowa and Theis was chosen as his successor.

“When I got here, it was a priority to make sure she was still coming to Marquette,” Theis said.

Louis stayed, and four years later no one is walking away when she plays. She has emerged as not only Marquette’s most offensively dominant player, but also as one of the best outside hitters in college volleyball. Following this weekend, she has already racked up 215 kills, which leads Marquette and is the second most in the BIG EAST. The journey to this point is one that Louis has yet to forget, but has little time to dwell on.

Unlike many women who play Division I college volleyball, Louis was first introduced to the sport in middle school and only started playing club as a freshman in high school.

“It was just honestly something to do,” Louis said with a laugh. “I was excelling a lot more in volleyball than I was in basketball — that was my other sport in high school. It was just something to do, stay out of trouble. … I’m not really a contact sport person. … It was just the sport I liked more than basketball.”

Volleyball kept Louis busy, but it was also a spot of contention for her. She was forced to compete with girls who had been playing the sport their whole lives.

“A lot of my friends started when they were nine, ten years old and they had been playing for years,” Louis said. “I did sometimes get really frustrated my freshman, sophomore year because I felt like I was so far behind. It took me longer to get the skill down, kind of like playing catch up with all my friends and teammates.”

Louis did have natural height and athleticism. Combine that with her arm speed and she had the potential to be deadly on the court.

“You were recruiting her on upside,” Theis said. “The ability to play with height above the net and a fast arm will more often than not translate to the ability to score points. I’m not a rocket scientist and neither is the last coach for that aspect of her career. Height above the net and arm speed are two pretty important things.”

While the prospect of playing college volleyball was exciting, Louis couldn’t help but feel that the notoriety was misguided.

“I didn’t feel like I deserved (the attention),” Louis said. “I felt where my skill was at that time. I didn’t deserve to be getting these letters from these colleges. I was like, ‘Well, I don’t feel like I am where I need to be, but I mean if they see it, then maybe I am on the right track,’ but I still didn’t feel like I was up to par with everyone else and I was still getting (letters). Maybe they saw potential, but that doesn’t count, for me at least, unless you are there already.”

Louis decided to block out any distractions that recruiting ignited and simply work on bettering herself. After a strong senior year and a subsequently solid year with a new club team, she progressed mightily. However, when she arrived at Marquette, Theis decided it would be best for her to take a redshirt year in order to get used to collegiate-level volleyball. It made a world of difference. Her freshman year, she made an immediate impact by recording a team-leading 611 kills.

“It was very important. That was the year of reconstruction,” Louis said of her redshirt year. “Just getting used to playing with collegiate-level athletes, just the speed and everything.”

This summer, Louis was able to improve her game even more by competing in a European tour with Marquette and with USA Volleyball in a training camp in Indiana.

“What the foreign tour and her USA experience allowed us to have was almost an entire other season,” Theis said. “I think she has expanded her game. That would be the best way to describe it. I don’t think she has made any major technique changes. She is always learning the sport because she did get a late start. She sees it a little bit better now. … What’s really exciting is the future of more. What is she really capable of and we are going to find out.”

“We just keep working, getting better and remaining positive,” Marquette outside hitter Amanda Green said. She was also a high school teammate of Louis. “Her confidence level kept growing and I think that is what really made a difference for her.”

It is a quiet Thursday afternoon at the Al McGuire Center when Louis walks in with a pillow in her left hand and her suitcase in her right. She sits in the empty arena, staring out over the volleyball court.

“It is honestly just unreal. Time is flying by so fast now, that is such a cliche saying, but it is true,” Louis said. “My official visit I was watching the girls play and I was like, ‘How am I ever going to be on that level?’ I think that was my junior year. I was just like, ‘Wow. This is amazing.’ If I could do that, then I will be okay with it, but still today I am doing that and I am still not okay with it. It is kinda weird to look at it from that perspective and just look at it from the outside and just be like, ‘Wow I have come a long way.’ I have made a lot of great strides and I could still potentially grow, depending on how hard I work and how dedicated I am. … I’m hoping to hopefully play overseas after college and if that goes well, hopefully try out for the Olympics one day.”

It is a travel day for Louis and the rest of the volleyball team, but before she leaves she is off to get treatment. Then she will hit center court with her teammates for one last practice. For Louis, her mindset today is the same as it always has been: an opportunity to better herself. She keeps one eye on the past to remember how far she has come, and another eye on the future to remind her what she can still accomplish.

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