Unlike many of the elite players in Arlington, Bowie middle blocker Taylor Salone has never played club volleyball in the off-season. But the Lady Vols senior, who was first team all-district in 2016, ups her game in a different way: by being a tireless student of the game.
“She’s a dominant player and she’s never played club,” senior outside hitter Kaje Massenburg said. “She’s so dominant and so athletic. It’s ridiculous. She can be whatever she wants to be. All she has to do is study and stay dedicated like she is, and she can get the job done.”
Coach Melissa Walker, who’s in her first season leading Bowie volleyball, has noticed that Salone and Massenburg are both willing and eager participants in film study — especially when it comes to errors or missed opportunities.
“[Salone] wants to see everything. Kaje, too,” Walker said. “When they make a mistake, they want to see it again. They’re willing to learn, and when you show it to them, they don’t make an excuse for it. They own it. They’re like, ‘I’ve got it.’”
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I would cry, literally. I cry for a lot of things, but I just wouldn’t shut up. I’d be like, ‘Hey, y’all, we went to playoffs this year.’
Taylor Salone on her reaction to reaching the playoffs
For Salone, film study and watching in person as other teams play is all about learning lessons she can apply to her game. “I constantly study technique,” Salone said. “I’m like, ‘OK, if she does her arm like this, I’m going to do my arm like this and the ball’s going to go down.’”
In addition to studying technique, Massenburg is always observing what makes her teammates tick. She knows how and when to give a pep talk to a teammate to get their spirits up. “They call me the Energizer Bunny out there because I’m always trying to pick people up when we’re down or when we’re not getting as many touches on the ball,” Massenburg said. “I’m trying to get people to play their game, to keep the intensity up for the whole game.”
Salone is one of those players whose best performances often come when some positive plays happen early in a match. But when things start going poorly, Bowie volleyball has tended to struggle in the past.
“I think with her it’s a confidence thing,” Walker said. “When she feels confident, she plays a lot better. When she is not too sure or not starting out well, sometimes her confidence wavers.”
Salone and Massenburg are confident that Bowie’s going to sneak up on teams in talent-rich District 4-6A. Making the playoffs in their final season is an attainable goal, the duo said. “We have the athleticism, we have the hustle, we have the heart,” Salone said. “We just have to finish. That’s one thing we have to work on is finishing.”
The student of the game has studied other successful teams. She has an idea how it will feel if she reaches the postseason. “I would cry, literally,” Salone said. “I cry for a lot of things, but I just wouldn’t shut up. I’d be like, ‘Hey, y’all, we went to playoffs this year.’”