When you talk about leadership on the volleyball court, a lot of area teams had great representatives and many of them are members of this year’s Herald-News all-area team.
Two of those who certainly stood out in a big way were a pair of seniors who have been regulars in our paper’s all-area teams during their careers. Plainfield Central’s Taylor Landfair is a four-time honoree on the all-area team, while Minooka senior Zoey Seput is being honored for the third time as an all-area selection.
Each player has placed themselves among the top-10 performers in state history, Seput with assists as a setter and Landfair with kills as an outside hitter.
But the players’ impacts on the area are more about presence than numbers and both have been excellent representatives of their programs and schools. So that’s why both of them are being recognized as our co-players of the year for the 2019 season.
Landfair was our selection a year ago and also was recognized as the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Illinois. Although on a Wildcat team this year that didn’t have as good of a record as some others, she was thrust into a new kind of role as a mentor for other players.
Seput made her first all-area team after performing well as a setter in her sophomore year on a team that featured a lot of seniors who played for two state titles. This year, she led another good team that fell in the supersectional to Class 4A champion Benet Academy.
She finished her season with 1,021 assists, 232 digs, 47 aces, 105 blocks and 59 kills for a team that went 32-8. During her career, she handed out 2,802 assists. She heads to the University of California, Riverside to continue her career and education.
“In my sophomore year, I learned a lot from all of those girls and they were phenomenal players who made me into a better player,” Seput said. “So going into my junior and senior years I knew that I would be given that leadership opportunity. Having successful seasons has been so much fun and we’ve all grown so close, and that helps a team’s chemistry.
“I feel that I play well in pressure situations and me and Carrie [Prosek] have sat through so much film that we can almost read each other’s minds and both know where we want the ball to go. It makes the game so much easier and helps me learn so much quicker.”
Landfair had 479 kills, a .336 hitting efficiency, 326 digs and 39 aces this season, and finished with 1,588 kills during her career after having 515 a year ago. The University of Minnesota-bound student-athlete was happy to take on a different type of role this season.
“I felt like my experience really helped me to lead them throughout a lot of the games,” Landfair said. “Being there and helping them to work through all of their little hardships was helpful for me. In past years, I was always an underclassman on my teams, so for being able to be a more experienced player was really helpful. Having those top players on my 18 teams always helped me through my hardships, so I kind of knew how to help my teammates.
“Having to step up and help the other girls kind of relieved some of the pressure off of them. And being able to be there for those girls was helpful and I really actually embraced it.”
Wildcat coach Erik Vogt has certainly enjoyed coaching Landfair for so many years.
“She had to take on a considerably bigger workload this year,” Vogt said. “But a lot of that goes to her ability to persevere, especially since there wasn’t a single team that didn’t know what Taylor was going to do. She’s really developed to being a good leader on and off the court. She’s a really intelligent person who is constantly trying to figure out what’s going to get the best result in the end, and she’s not afraid to step up as a leader or take a back seat and that’s what makes her unique as a volleyball player.”
And while Indians coach Carrie Prosek hasn’t been able to coach Seput as long as Vogt has been with Landfair, she’s grateful that they had three great years together.
“It was a blessing having her for three years,” Prosek said. “Really starting to get to know her in her sophomore year and knew her junior year, but this year we could just look at each other and she knew what I was thinking and I didn’t have to say anything. So we really got to have that bond together and we were on the same page the whole time and it’s great to have a leader like that on the coach.
“To make it to the Elite Eight this year, a lot of that quality comes from her leadership and getting the ball to the girls. She is a very good decision maker and this year, she was a threat on the front row, as well and led our team in blocking and she was also our sixth hitter. And she wasn’t about herself, she was about the team.”