Wednesday, September 17, 2008

High School Volleyball LHS senior Tolefree headed to KU

Lawrence High standout second Lion to commit to Jayhawks in last month


For most student-athletes, accepting a college athletic scholarship registers as one of those dream-come-true moments.

That was not the case for Lawrence High senior Tayler Tolefree, who earlier this season orally committed to play volleyball at Kansas University.

"I didn't even know if I wanted to play volleyball in college last year," Tolefree said.

After years or dabbling in this sport of the other, Tolefree committed to volleyball 100 percent last season. She chose to give up basketball, electing instead to join a club volleyball team for the first time.

Shortly after joining the Topeka Impact - a club team that includes Free State's Taylor Manning and Melissa Burch - Tolefree discovered that the possibilities were endless. Major Division I college programs started calling.

Tolefree received interest from Ohio State, Maryland and Central Florida, among others, and initially thought she would end up at any of the dozens of programs that were after her.

"When I first started thinking about playing in college, I didn't want to stay here," she said. "But I'm a big family person, so being close to home was important."

It was not just her biological family that convinced Tolefree to choose KU. The Kansas volleyball program's family atmosphere also played a part. So did KU's commitment to success.

"They are driven to win," Tolefree said. "They're not people who sit back and are OK with being average."

According to LHS coach Stephanie Magnuson, it was that trait that made Tolefree a perfect fit for Kansas.

"Beyond her skill, she has the dedication, determination, work ethic and coachability," Magnuson said. "She's such a team player and such a coachable kid that I don't see anything challenging her that she can't handle."

Tolefree earned second team all-state honors for her play with the Lions last season. In addition to leading the team in blocks and intimidation, she was among the team leaders in kills. This year, along with added height - Tolefree grew two inches in the offseason and now stands 6-foot-2 - the Lions' senior leader plans to add back-row defense to her repertoire.

"She's really put her entire heart into getting better this summer," Magnuson said. "I'm so proud of her, and so excited that I get to watch her for the four more years."

Tolefree is the second LHS senior to commit to KU this year, as girls basketball player Tania Jackson also agreed to join the Jayhawks earlier this summer.


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