Taylor Rhodes, one of the three senior stars from the Sectional Champion Shelbyville Lady Rams volleyball team (34-6, 11-0 Okaw), held her official collegiate signing ceremony on Wednesday, January 19 at the Shelbyville High School gym.
Rhodes was the final senior star to sign and receive a scholarship to play ball this fall at the next level. The 1st Team all-conference pick and All-State Honorable Mention signed to play for Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, the same team Ram setter Hollie Schultz signed with last week. Shannon Boone signed earlier with Parkland College.
Rhodes was the second-leading hitter on the team the last two years when the Rams went 59-18, playing in a regional championship one year and winning a sectional title the following year. The Rams were also the undisputed, undefeated Okaw Valley Conference Champions this year. A big reason was that Rhodes was just as dangerous as the top hitter, Shannon Boone, and was herself one of the top hitters in the area
Rhodes, in addition to being the second-leading hitter, led the Rams this year at the service line and in court defense. Rhodes served a team-high 386 points and a team-high 62 aces. She swung for 317 kills and recorded 14 blocks. Besides being an outside hitter, she also led the team with 437 digs.
Lincoln Land coach Jim Dietz sees Rhodes' quickness and versatility as a big benefit for his program. At the high school level, Rhodes was a dangerous hitter. But at the collegiate level, she is not as tall as the ideal hitter. Yet, with her quickness to the net and her power, she will still be an effective weapon at the net for Lincoln Land.
Her opportunity to keep hitting and to eventually go on to play for a 4-year program helped make the decision to play for the Loggers, despite being recuited by Kaskaskia College and Millikin University, and talking with Parkland College and Illinois Wesleyan University.
"I decided on Lincoln Land, because I feel Coach Dietz will give me the best chance to play and go on to a bigger school," Rhodes said. "I like to play all over the court, but my desire is to hit more. I will have to play libero, eventually, but if I can hit for a couple more years I'll be happy."
Rhodes has a chance to fulfill her desire at Lincoln Land. One of the other Logger recruits at hitter position wants to come in and play libero, instead. Although Rhodes may be more libero in size, she wants to be a hitter. Both girls have a shot at getting what they want and so does Lincoln Land.
Rhodes has also been recruited by colleges to play softball. She has the ability to pitch, but would rather play shortstop. Last year, she was one of the leading hitters in the area on a team that at one time hit well over .400. Rhodes also hit with power. But when it came to college scholarships, volleyball won out.
"I had always wanted to play sports in college, either softball or volleyball," Rhodes said. "I didn't know which I'd do, but then I started to get looked at for volleyball."
Rhodes credits Shelbyville coach Lisa Peifer, as well as assistant coach Jill Miller for helping her get this opportunity.
"She (Peifer) kept telling us that this was an option for us," Rhodes said. "She pushed me, even in club volleyball and she taught me all I know."
The team Rhodes is going to has a lot of potential. The Loggers, under Coach Dietz, were ranked 12th last year (NJCAA D-II) and finished 34-11. All of Coach Dietz' players who want to move on to a 4-year program and continue playing volleyball have done so. The latest to do so is Beka Pruemer from Stew-Stras. She was Lincoln Land's all-conference setter, who is now moving on to play for University of Illinois-Springfield and join Shelbyville's Ann Nottingham at UIS.
Lincoln Land already has Katie Lees from Pana on the team. The team has now picked up Rhodes at another hitter position and Schultz at setter. Those three girls have played together on club volleyball.
Lincoln Land is still trying to recruit Haley Maxwell from Windsor. If they win that lottery, Lincoln Land would have four players that played together in club volleyball. The Loggers also have a former St. Athony setter, Bushur, coming to join the 6-2 offense. Four or five of Lincoln Land's starters could possibly be girls that have already played together and who aren't even on campus yet.
Rhodes 2010 Honors: 1st Team All Okaw Valley Conference, Honoarable Mention All-State (Top 150 all classes combined).
Rhodes stats: *386 service points, *62 aces, 317 kills, *437 digs, 14 blocks