Ella Tao commits to University of Puget Sound volleyball

December 12, 2022


Used with permission from Ella Tao

Senior Ella Tao has committed to Puget Sound University for volleyball.

Senior and girls varsity volleyball co-captain Ella Tao found her passion for volleyball at 10 years old when her father signed her up for her first volleyball lesson. Tao had been playing basketball and soccer for several years already but immediately fell in love with volleyball. Continuing her seven-year volleyball journey, Tao will be playing on the University of Puget Sound’s volleyball team as a defense specialist starting in 2023. 

“I can’t imagine my life without volleyball,” Tao said. “There’s nothing in life that can replace the feeling of winning an intense match, or even just an intense rally. It’s the feeling of relief and exhaustion but also satisfaction and pride. So, being able to play volleyball in college is really exciting and gives me something to look forward to.”

Tao has always cherished the community her team formed through their common goals in the sport. Supportive teammates and fun practices motivated her to endure three-hour practices three times a week after school at City Beach Volleyball Club. 

Volleyball is also Tao’s way of relieving stress, as it allows her to solely focus on her performance on the courts. Tao began to play competitively in eighth grade as an outside hitter and defense specialist. She traveled all across the nation with her teammates to compete in tournaments, which made the sport even more enjoyable. 

“She’s definitely one of the most passionate and kindest teammates I’ve ever had,” junior and girls varsity volleyball co-captain Valerie Eng said. “She’s caring and considerate, and those qualities make her a great leader. She’s one of the most capable captains I’ve ever worked with.”

Despite all her efforts into training, her height has been one constant source of challenge for her. 

“Hitters in the front row are normally really tall,” Tao said. “But, I was relatively short for my position.”

Since most of the front row hitters and blockers have higher reach to the ball, Tao faced difficulty finding ways to attack against blocks as a shorter hitter. With tips from her coaches and teammates, she developed strategies to overcome this challenge. She learned how to maneuver the ball around the block and control the amount of power when hitting. She also practiced placing the ball at different locations to perfect her cut shots skills, which is to hit the ball at a sharp angle. 

“Cut shots are difficult for opponents to dig so they were really helpful,” Tao said. “With these shots, I was able to win more points for my team even though I was considered relatively short for a hitter.”

In March, she started to email college coaches to invite them to her tournaments and watch her games. The head coach from Puget Sound came to the Red Rock Rave tournament at Las Vegas where she was matched against a high-seeded team; her team had a lot of injured players at that time. She remained calm under pressure and performed well as she got a successful block, which is rare for shorter hitters. A few weeks after the tournament, she scheduled a video call with the coach to discuss Puget Sound’s volleyball programs. After visiting the campus to see their facilities and meet some of the players, she decided to play for Puget Sound because of sufficient support for the volleyball team and a great program for her major, communications. 

“I’m proud of myself for being able to get recruited, no matter what division it is,” Tao said. 

Aside from volleyball, Tao has always been interested in photography and journalism, as they allow her to express her creative side. Although Tao couldn’t entirely pursue these passions in high school due to her intense academics and sports schedules, she plans to study marketing or public relations management and graphic design in college.

“Volleyball is one of the only sports where all the players come together after each rally or point,” Tao said. “It just makes me feel so special to be part of such a welcoming and supportive community.”

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Daeun Chung, Web Editor

(she/her) Daeun is a senior and second-year staffer for the Epic. In her free time, she watches true crime documentaries and argues with her younger sister...

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