Volleyball’s Nyquist learns to overcome adversity
Taylor Nyquist
Taylor Nyquist
Lying in pain on the Swisher Gymnasium floor, JU volleyball outside hitter Taylor Nyquist could only think of one thing – her teammates.

Last season in the home opener against Presbyterian College, Nyquist was hitting her stride as she led the Dolphins with 18 kills and six digs in battling for a win. In the fifth set, she put the Dolphins two points shy of the win, 13-12, with a kill. They called her number again, but she was blocked by the Blue Hose and came down wrong on her left leg leaving her in a lot of pain.

“I really just thought about the team honestly,” Nyquist said as she recalled that night. “(I thought) about how long I would be out for and what the injury was. I knew something was wrong and I was anxious about it. I was just hoping for something of the best of it.”

The prognosis was not good for the Colleyville, Texas, native as she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and both meniscus in her left knee, forcing her to miss the rest of the sophomore campaign.

“It was very frustrating,” Nyquist said. “I tried to stay positive the whole time. It was hard to go from starting to watching from the sidelines. My goal is to play and to not play at all to stay on the sidelines was extremely frustrating.”

Nyquist had every right to be frustrated as she was becoming one of the top offensive players in her second season at JU.

Through the first 10 games in 2011, she was leading the Dolphins in kills (117), third in digs (77) and fourth in aces (5) and blocks (14). Nyquist had four straight double-digit kill efforts leading up to her injury, including a team-best 21 kills and 17 digs in the five-set win vs. Clemson.

However, all of this would have to wait after the doctors gave her a 10-month window to get back following the surgery. There was a point where Nyquist thought she might not come back.

“I knew I would come back, but I didn’t know when or how strong,” Nyquist said. “There was a point when I got really down and thought I would be done. But I kept fighting and got support from my teammates, they definitely brought me back.”

Nyquist had a small setback along the way as the Dolphins added a new coaching staff in Michelle Collier and Susie Jangada. It might be nerve racking to go through an injury with a new staff, but little did she know that Collier was on her side.

“I had a very similar injury my sophomore year in college as well,” Collier said who was a standout at the University of South Florida. “It's nice to be able to give advice when you have gone through what she did. When you have a season ending injury like this, you spend a lot of time watching the game from the outside and therefore learning a lot from it.”

With the support of her teammates and coaches, Nyquist went back to work with a steady dose on the therapy and weight room to get back on the court. She was also able to pick up some new nuisances of the game while sitting for the final half of the season.

“It’s definitely a different side of the game I noticed,” Nyquist said on sitting and learning. “Just playing wise and seeing how the girls played, I definitely learned a lot in every aspect of the game.”

“She has learned to develop other areas of her game that are helping her offset the physical aspect of coming back from an injury,” Collier said. “She is becoming more versatile and smart as a hitter. This allows for a bigger role in the serve receive and defense, which makes her more complete player.”

Nyquist was able to see her first extended action of the season by playing in all 11 sets for JU at the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic Aug. 31-Sept. 1. She managed four kills and 19 digs through those sets.

“Right away, I thought she played awesome her first game back,” junior Kylie Jacob said. “We all encouraged her a lot and made sure she felt comfortable through the process and that her knee was OK. We keep cheering her on because she has been doing so well. We are all very proud of her on what she had done.”

Nyquist admits that she is not quite back to 100 percent but the numbers show she is getting closer every day. In the first four A-Sun matches, she has had a least seven kills and five digs en route to ranking in the top five on the squad in kills, aces and digs.

“I am proud of how she has handled this adversity and how hard she is working to make herself and this program better,” Collier said. “She has worked very hard all last fall, spring and summer and is continuing to work hard to get back at the top of her game. She will be an important part of our success in conference play.”

Despite the overall setback with the injury, Nyquist’s overall goals remain the same – to be an All-American and win a conference championship. Her 2012 goals are virtually in line with the team’s goal.

“For the team, we want to make it to the conference tournament,” Nyquist said on goals. “Hopefully, we can get a (championship) ring as well. For me, it’s just getting back to how I was playing. I am still working on it. I have been getting my vertical back up, my swing back and getting better at defense are some of my biggest goals.”

Nyquist and the Dolphins return to action tomorrow against Florida Gulf Coast for an A-Sun match at Swisher Gymnasium. First serve is set for 7 p.m.