Lewistown Fergus volleyball: Maintaining excellence

Lewistown’s Mikaela Olson (10) spikes the ball against Billings West’s Sydney Lich (8) and Christine Wing (3) during the recent Electric City Invitational Volleyball Tournament. / TRIBUNE PHOTO/LARRY BECKNER

If you’ve ever come across a girls’ volleyball outing with ties to Lewistown, there is a good chance Tara Taylor had a hand in it.

The veteran coach at Fergus High School has been developing the volleyball craft in the Lewistown area for more than a decade.

Taylor is in her 11th year as head coach and her 17th season as part of the program at Fergus.

A native of Moore, Fergus has guided the Golden Eagles to nearly a half dozen Class A state championships, including back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.

The entire varsity squad from last season’s banner year graduated, which would leave most programs scrambling to rebuild. That is not the case for Fergus, as Taylor pitted her junior varsity players against the lauded seniors in practice last year.

“My younger kids that are here today had to battle them all the time at practice last year,” Taylor said. “It really stepped up their level last year going against that at practice day in and day out.”

Despite having only three seniors and no players who came into this season with varsity court time, Taylor’s team is still poised to contend this fall.

“We’ve had kind of a slow start but we’re getting there,” said senior Andrea Nielson, a 5-foot-5 setter. “I expect us to place at state.”

The longevity of success associated with Fergus volleyball is a visual and visceral ode to Taylor’s commitment.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Coach T because she starts out with the little kids, fourth and fifth grade,” longtime assistant Josie Krause said. “She has a hand in their development from the time they touch a volleyball for the very first time until they get to be seniors. I have to hand it to her dedicating so much time to Fergus volleyball.”

Krause sees Taylor’s continued loyalty to all ages as the underpinning of the Golden Eagles’ sustained triumphs.

“That way the kids are hearing the same message and the same drills and the same expectations from when they first touch a volleyball all the way through high school,” Krause said. “She dedicates hundreds and hundreds of hours every single year, and you know coaches sometimes don’t get compensated for all they do.”

Compensation for Taylor is seeing her girls blossom on and off the court.

“She helps out everyone a lot,” Nielson said. “She’s very inspirational.”

Nielson and her teammates fell in the third place match to Butte in the consolation bracket last weekend at the Electric City Invitational at C.M. Russell High. In pool play, Fergus earned splits with Class AA schools Bozeman and Missoula Sentinel.

“Our main goal is we want to come and compete at a high level and play at a high level,” Taylor said. “We want to leave it all out on the court. At the end of the day, if we’ve done that, sometimes you come up short and sometimes not. It’s important to work hard and work as a team.”

This year’s Class A state tournament is in Bozeman following the conference tourney in Belgrade.

“I definitely anticipate our kids to be competing for another division championship — that’s one of our goals — and to be competing again at the state tournament,” Taylor said. “We’re pretty young but they have the ability. It’s just getting them on the court and getting some time.”

And with time, they’re primed to rise to Taylor’s track record of achievement.

Reach Daniel Mediate at (406) 791-1492, or at dmediate @ greatfallstribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GFTribDMediate.

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