LEHI — Tylee Fuller faced a tough decision as a sophomore — continue to pursue the role she wanted on her volleyball team or try to be the player the team needed.
She made the choice to change positions, and it turned out the game gave her more than the ability to read a hitter or keep a ball in play.
Her experience offered her insight on how to be a better friend, a more empathetic person and a much better communicator.
“It was a pretty hard decision to make,” said the Skyridge senior. “I didn’t want to switch at first. But I figured out what was best for my team, and what was best for me, and I made the decision.” Fuller said she played defense as a freshman, but her goal was to earn the job of hitter — either right side or outside.
“It was basically starting over,” she said of deciding to switch to defense and libero as a sophomore after seeing that her team had a lot of hitters but not a lot of depth at defense. “I’d been working on blocking and hitting, and this was staring over to learn to read the ball, eye work. It was hard but not unmanageable.”
She took private lessons and watched a lot of film, as well as live games, studying how liberos played at every level. When she didn’t win the starting libero job as a junior, she looked to the senior who won the spot (Reagan Calton) as a friend, collaborator and mentor while contributing to the team’s defense as a back row player.
“It was always a team thing,” she said. “We trusted each other that we’d get the job, whether it was me or her out there. We were both pretty new to the position, and we supported each other fully.”
Fuller’s generosity of spirit is what’s made her versatile on the court and a leader in the locker room.
“Usually if when players make the switch from hitter to libero it’s going into college,” said Skyridge head coach Deanna Meyer. “But she saw a need and saw an opportunity to get on the court, and made the change.”
What’s made her successful with the switch is her work ethic.
“She’s constantly working on foot speed and agility," Meyer said. "She came to practice and worked on it, and then she’d borrow my ladders and do agility drills so she could get better. She’s just really dedicated.”
Fuller’s biggest improvement, however, came in her intellect.
“She’s really learned how to understand the game,” Meyer said. “She’s able to read the defense. She sees where she needs to be, which is really difficult to do.”
She said Fuller doesn’t just occupy an open space on the floor.
“As a defender, she’s having to read the way the ball is set, where the block is forming and the way the hitter is lining up and approaching,” she said. “She’s just become really solid at reading that and being in the right place.”
She’s also able to set to the Skyridge hitters if the setter takes the pass. Meyer said it may seem a secondary role, but in truth, it’s the foundation on which everything else is built.
“The libero is really a key player in winning championships,” she said. “They’re the passing and back row defense captains. …They’re like the setter in the sense that they work for the other people.” Just as a setter’s job is to provide opportunities for hitters, it’s the libero’s job to make sure the setter has a pass that allows those opportunities.
“They’re the people who make the world a better place,” she said of those willing to sacrifice and work for the benefit of those around them. “Those people are basically the foundation of the team. If you can’t pass, if you can’t play defense or dig balls, you can’t set up the offense. Without them, nothing else happens.”
The oldest of five children, Fuller said her role with the Skyridge volleyball team has made her appreciate much more than a great hit or critical stuff block.
“It’s taught me a lot of responsibility,” she said. “It’s taught me how to be responsible for my actions, how to be a better communicator and a better friend.”
That ability, she said, extends to girls she might not have otherwise befriended.
“It’s helped especially with girls that I don’t always get along with,” Fuller said. “Each teammate has a vibe and each situation is different, and I’ve learned how to get along with them.”
Her role has also helped her deal with personal challenges, like her father’s recent throat surgery.
“My family has been through some stuff,” Fuller said. “My dad had throat surgery and he’s struggled not being able to talk. Coming from volleyball, I’ve learned, when things get hard, you just keep pushing. As teammates, we have to back each other up, work for each other, and just keep supporting each other. It’s taught me how to be there for somebody else, how to be more attentive to somebody else’s needs.”
She said her family has learned patience in dealing with her father’s health challenges, and she’s learned that communication isn’t always verbal or straightforward.
“We have to communicate through signaling,” she said. “It’s really taught me a lot.”
Meyer said Fuller is part of the reason Skyridge feels confident in competing at the highest levels. The team recently finished 23rdof 64 teams at the prestigious Durango Tournament.
“She’s just a natural leader,” Meyer said. “She’s just a natural leader, a great communicator and a fantastic leader on and off the court.”
Her leadership, along with that of the team’s other seniors, has the players believing they are capable of a lot more than just having fun.
“As hard as she’s worked all offseason, she’s just very invested in trying to take state, trying to put Skyridge in that state title column,” Meyer said, “She and her teammates are trying to forge their own path, and she’s completely bought into that.” Fuller admits it would mean a lot to her and her teammates to earn a state title.1 comment on this story
“I was a freshman when we were at Lehi and they took state,” she said. “It’s a feeling you don’t forget. …This is just our third year, but it would make a statement and really show our younger girls that they can do whatever they set their minds to do.” In the end, however, it isn’t the title or trophies that mean the most to Fuller.
“I’m just really going to miss the opportunities I’ve been given,” she said. “The ability to be with these girls, to be close to these girls. I’ll miss helping the younger girls find our culture, figure out what we’re about. I just want to help them learn to get where the seniors are today and to keep the good stuff in their lives, to be good people.”