Inspiration and passion for a hobby can set in many different ways.
Some people grow up in an environment where they are exposed to the activity constantly.
There are others who stumble upon the event by accident, and it hooks them like a fish on a line.
In Taylor Braunagel’s case, one could argue that both are the cause for her love of volleyball and the competitive aspect of sports.
Braunagel says she, “First tried out for the [volleyball] team in seventh grade, and I picked it up pretty quickly. I’ve been hooked since then.” What delights her the most is that, “It’s an exciting game based on momentum with a balance of personal skill and team cohesion.”
Sports runs in the family for Braunagel.
“My mom was tetherball champion in elementary school. My dad played a lot of sports, namely basketball and baseball were his favorites.”
Braunagel’s path to Clarion is one that almost never was.
She explains that, “Initially, I was in contact with Duke early on in the recruiting process. After an ankle injury junior year, I was out for around five or six months, and they continued to look for someone else. I then was forced to start my senior year with no academic or athletic plan, which was terrifying to me.”
“I started looking for state schools. I saw Clarion wasn’t too far away, and they were a very good team in the PSAC. I contacted Jen and Jon, and I had a visit almost the next week! I’m big into biology, so when I got here and I heard there was an electron microscope, I had basically made my decision. As silly as that sounds, I thought that if a school was dedicated enough to the sciences to have an electron microscope (one of the few in the state of PA), then I think I could match their enthusiasm with a similar passion. It reminds me a lot of home. I’m from a small town in the mountains with a river that runs right through it. Needless to say, I was drawn here by its small town charm and environmentally centered feel.”
Home wasn’t all about volleyball.
In the naturalistic charm of her hometown, Braunagel developed her love for biology.
“I really love the outdoors. I’ve always been interested in how things work and how things happen in life at different levels. I love the scientific process, and biology has been a passion of mine since I was little. I’m more fascinated in evolutionary processes, and wildlife conservation.”
When it comes to the court, Braunagel takes a rather humble approach to success.
“I don’t want to be individualized. I want to be remembered as part of the team. I’m told I’m smiley and I get really excited during games, but that’s because I’m just a positive person in general. The only thing I want to be is a vessel for God, and to have His light shine through me. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be with a great group of girls that share a passion for volleyball, and I want us to be remembered as a unit.”
“I mean, obviously I also want to develop my skills as a player; but in 20 years, I won’t be remembering every win and every loss. I’ll be remembering how my teammates and I battled through everything together. Each workout, lift, spring and fall practice, game and tournament we participate in, we make memories that will last longer than the points on a scoreboard.”
This mindset has her more focused on the team’s overall goals than her own.
She says, “As a team, we have some goals for this season, including specific passing and hitting percentages, as well as getting a bid to NCAAs and taking a shot at the PSAC conference championship. Personally, I want relationships and friendships with teammates that will last a lifetime. As an upperclassman, I want to set an example of hard work, dedication, passion, sportsmanship and love of others that can be passed down as the CUVB culture.”
Braunagel’s hope to develop that sense of community has taken on a spiritual form.
She says, “My faith is my life. I’ve had pre-game prayer rituals personally before games, but this year I’ve expanded. At first to two others, and now to around eight or nine girls. We say a quick prayer before each game in order to dedicate it to God in hopes we may glorify Him.”