The Windermere senior is taking advantage of her short time with the Wolverines this season, before heading to the University of Arkansas to play volleyball for the Razorbacks.
Going into Windermere’s volleyball match against Tohopekaliga, senior Taylor Head knew she was close to something big.
In her fourth year of high-school volleyball, Head had seen her stats explode to the point where she was only a few kills away from picking up No. 1,000.
Some athletes would have it in the back of their mind — actively thinking about it — but Head never did. Once the Wolverines got into their game against the Tigers, however, it was hard to ignore, thanks to her teammates around her.
“At the start of the season, I had no idea, but after I had 10 more to go they were kind of making it a big deal (and) counting it on the bench — that was nice of everyone,” Head said. “I really appreciated it, because they’re all thinking of me, and I felt really loved. I really appreciated what they were trying to do for me.”
Kills are a natural product of playing at the outside hitter position, but to collect them the way Head has is impressive.
It’s a skill Head developed over years of practice and play, and it’s the muscle memory that allows her to react as quickly as she does. A successful kill happens in a blink of an eye, so a player must respond appropriately.
“You just have to have good intuition,” Head said. “You have to be able to see with your peripheral vision — where the blockers are — because if I see two big hands in front of me, I just drop it right over them and then it usually scores.”
A FUNNY STORY
After playing soccer and softball as a kid, a then-7-year-old Head got a suggestion from her mom to try volleyball.
They headed to Orlando Tampa Volleyball Academy — then Orlando Volleyball Academy — where Head made a unique first impression.
“I was in jean shorts and Converse trying out,” Head said with a laugh. “They were like, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing.’ And (then) I got some spandex and a T-shirt, and eventually knee pads. I made a team and I just fell in love with it, and I’ve played ever since.”
Those first volleyball practices were much different than what she had been used to when playing soccer, but they were welcome changes. Head liked wearing the kneepads and enjoyed doing something different.
It also also during those practices that Head met some of her best friends, and from then on she knew that volleyball would be her game of choice.
FROM WARRIOR TO WOLVERINE
By the time Head got to West Orange High for her freshman year, she already was getting letters from schools such as the University of Alabama, Georgia Tech and the University of Tennessee.
The attention came with good reason. Head was strong on the court as an underclassman on the varsity squad — picking up 239 kills, 41 aces and 209 digs. But the big highlight for her first year came the summer before her sophomore year.
After taking a trip to the University of Arkansas, Head decided what college she would attend — she wanted to join the Razorbacks’ volleyball program.
“The people that were already there and the commits that were already committed — there were a couple that were already from Florida that I already knew of — I liked all of them, so I thought that it would be a great place,” Head said. “I knew my relationships with all of the girls would be strong, and I thought that was very important.”
Each season after her commit, Head continued to develop as a player and saw her stats explode.
In her sophomore year, Head led the team in kills (353) and aces (78). The following year, she once again led in those same categories with 382 kills and 46 aces.
Even more impressive: Head has amassed those stats while being undersized for her position.
“Usually at the collegiate level there are 6-foot-2 outside hitters — I’m a shorter outside (at 5-foot-10), so I’ve had to develop other skills,” Head said. “I’ve had to make my passing game better, I’ve had to make other things in my game better so my height wouldn’t matter.”
After a successful junior year at West Orange, Head decided to transfer for her final year and attend Windermere High School — a place where she continues to thrive on the court. The Wolverines are sitting at a perfect 12-0 as of press time Tuesday.
Head and the Wolverines showed their dominance during a 7-0 run through the KSA Events Fall Classic. In that tournament, Head picked up an impressive 58 total kills — including 30 in the first two games.
And with the season currently at the halfway point — not including the playoffs — Head has plenty of time to keep adding to her stat sheet before she graduates early and heads to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in a couple of months.
“I’m really excited for the level of competition and the level of volleyball — college volleyball is just high-level volleyball,” Head said. “I wanted to go into the SEC, so that was my goal. I expect to work hard and compete and just be myself.”