Huntley's Taylor Jakubowski earned the ultimate respect from her peers four years ago when she was voted team captain before playing her first high school match. That season, Jakubowski led the Red Raiders to their first Fox Valley Conference championship with an area-high 989 assists.
She was only getting started.
The four-year setter and NCAA Division I Seton Hall commit helped lead Huntley to its second FVC title as a senior, a fourth straight regional championship and the program's first sectional title since 2001.
Jakubowski, who had 793 assists, 285 digs and 65 aces this fall, will graduate as one of the most decorated volleyball players in McHenry County history, finishing second in state history with 3,556 career assists, according to IHSA.org. Only Sandburg's Sarah Kwasigroch had more with 3,659 assists from 2001 to 2004.
For her accomplishments, Jakubowski was selected 2019 Northwest Herald Girls Volleyball Player of the Year, selected by the sports staff with input from area coaches. Jakubowski is the first Raiders player to earn the award since Ally Dion, Jakubowski's former teammate, in 2016.
Jakubowski recently spoke with the Northwest Herald about volleyball, double socks and college.
Who is your favorite professional athlete?
Jakubowski: (Team USA volleyball player and former Wisconsin setter) Lauren Carlini. She's a setter just like me. She came in as a freshman and made such a huge impact. I look up to her a lot.
What will you remember most about your high school career?
Jakubowski: I think just the tradition, singing in the locker room, us going to Tropical (Smoothie Cafe) and just having the family kind of aspect. We sing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" before every game.
How did you become a setter?
Jakubowski: At first I was a libero, because I was always so short. My mom (Michelle) was like, 'No, you can't be a setter.' But she trained me to be a setter because she was a setter, and I fell in love with the position and stuck with it.
Do you have any rituals or superstitions before you play?
Jakubowski: I have so many. I always have to have the same game-day hair. I always have my brush with me and use that before every game. I go to Tropical and get a Kiwi Quencher and a cookie. I always wear double socks. I don't know why, but I have to do that.
Which teammates inspires you the most?
Jakubowski: Josie (Schmitendorf). She works so hard, and I've been with her for so long. We know each other so well, and she just pushes me to be a better teammate and a better person every day.
What was your favorite Disney movie growing up?
Jakubowski: "Lemonade Mouth." I love that movie. I'm watching it now on Disney Plus.
What was your favorite match from this past season?
Jakubowski: St. Charles East (in the Class 4A Dundee-Crown Sectional final). We played them the last two years, and we couldn't beat them. We finally got over that, and I think that we played the best game we've ever played all year.
What is your most memorable moment playing volleyball?
Jakubowski: Winning the sectional championship was a big one. My 18 club team (at Sky High) won the Junior Volleyball Association Nationals. Our team really never won anything out of state, so I thought that was pretty cool and pretty memorable.
What other sport(s) would you be good at?
Jakubowski: I was super good at softball until I quit because I couldn't play both. I played second base. I was really good.
Is there a special significance to your uniform No. 12?
Jakubowski: My uncle was No. 12 when he played basketball. For my club team, I wanted to be No. 11, but someone already had that. My mom was No. 11. I just went up one number, and I've been No. 12 ever since I was 10 years old. A senior at Seton Hall has No. 12, so now I have to figure out a new number. Probably No. 19, to go with my sister's (Taryn Jakubowski, Creighton women's soccer) college career.
Who is the best athlete in your family?
Jakubowski: My sister is super fast, but I don't know. I think if I say anything I'll get in trouble. Probably my little brother, T.J.; he's probably the best.
What is a sport you are bad at?
Jakubowski: Basketball. I can't shoot. I shoot like I'm setting a volleyball.
What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited?
Jakubowski: Hawaii. We went there last December and stayed for a whole week. My grandparents paid for everything, and it was so nice. I got really tan, and I loved it.
Who is your hero?
Jakubowski: Either my parents (Michelle and Andy) or my sister. My parents just as coaches, they push me to be better every day in whatever. My sister showed me how to work hard, and use whatever height I do have to my advantage, and just to be smart.
Who is your funniest teammate?
Jakubowski: (2019 graduate) Marissa Deem. She's probably the funniest person ever.
What would be your dream job?
Jakubowski: Probably to coach at the collegiate level and impact girls.
What is your favorite fast food?
Jakubowski: Probably Chic-fil-A. I love Chic-fil-A. I get chicken nuggets, fries and an Oreo shake.
What are three of your favorite TV shows?
Jakubowski: "Grey's Anatomy," "All American," and "Hannah Montana."
What are you looking forward to the most at Seton Hall?
Jakubowski: Just to make the most impact I can on the team. They haven't done too well the last two seasons, so just to come in and show them my leadership and see what I can do with the team, and maybe make it to the NCAA Tournament.