Basketball is in her family’s blood, but Jenna Taphorn will be playing volleyball in college.
The Pekin senior announced this week her verbal commitment to Southern Illinois Edwardsville, where she’ll play Division I volleyball for the Cougars, coached by Kendall Paulus.
“The coaching staff there is very supportive and down to earth, but they still hold you accountable,” Taphorn said. “Plus, the girls on the team are great.”
Pekin volleyball coach Yvonne Thompson said Taphorn made a wise college choice. Of course, Thompson might be a tad bit biased.
“I played volleyball at SIU Edwardsville,” Thompson said. “The volleyball coaches there are good. We (Pekin) go there every summer for team camp. This is nice fit for Jenna.”
Pat Taphorn, Jenna’s father, played basketball at Pekin and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Nathan Taphorn, Jenna’s brother, played basketball at Pekin and Northwestern. Matt Taphorn, Jenna’s uncle, played basketball at Pekin and Illinois State.
Carter Taphorn, Jenna’s brother, played basketball at Pekin. Justin Taphorn, Jenna’s twin brother, is a Pekin basketball player.
Jenna also plays basketball for Pekin. But she said volleyball is her No. 1 sport.
“I love it,” she said. “I like that you start over, are refreshed, with each set.”
Thompson said Jenna’s volleyball skills were rough when she started high school, most likely because of Jenna’s focus on basketball and dance when she was younger.
“Jenna has worked very hard to improve in volleyball, both playing for us and her club team (Central Illinois Elite),” Thompson said.
Jenna is a 5-foot-11 front line player in volleyball. She’ll probably be an outside hitter in college and most likely play that position for Pekin this fall.
She had a solid junior volleyball season at Pekin with 121 kills, 41 blocks, 35 digs and eight aces. She had 14 kills, 18 blocks, two digs and one ace as a sophomore.
Jenna also seriously considered Bradley and Belmont as her college choice. Former Pekin volleyball teammate Hannah Thompson plays for Bradley.
“I enjoyed the college recruiting process, but I’m happy it’s over and my decision has been made,” Jenna said. “Now I can focus on helping (the Pekin volleyball team) this season.”
Jenna’s brother Nathan made his college decision early. Her father did not.
“Did hearing about their experiences make a difference in my decision to commit early? Definitely,” Jenna said.
Jenna plans to study physical therapy and exercise science at SIU Edwardsville.
The college touts the academic success of its athletes, pointing out in a recent news story on its website that SIU Edwardsville athletes have had a combined grade point average of more than 3.0 for 26 straight semesters over 13 years.
The SIU Edwardsville volleyball team had a combined 3.528 GPA at the end of the last school year.
On the court, the Cougars were 9-20 last season including 8-8 in the Ohio Valley Conference. They lost in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Jenna Taphron is 15 minutes older than her twin brother Justin. They’ll celebrate their 18th birthday Aug. 26.
Justin is five inches taller than Jenna. He’s 6-4.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.