Digging It

Belgrade's Taylor Christensen makes a dig during the state Class A tournament in November.

Taylor Christensen comes from a tight-knit family. So when the opportunity to compete on the same volleyball team in college as her sister presented itself, the Belgrade junior didn’t pass it up.

Wednesday morning Christensen made it official, signing a letter of intent to play at the University of Providence in Great Falls. She joins older sister Bailey, who signed with the program last May, and is looking forward to continue playing with her sibling.

“It’s really exciting to me,” Christensen said. “I think it will be really fun.”

Christensen is an All-State libero, who has been instrumental in helping Belgrade finish as the state Class A runner up in each of the past two seasons. The Panthers boasted a 30-4 record this past season, and the 30 victories set a new program record.

Serve's Up

Belgrade's Taylor Christensen serves the ball during the state Class A tournament in November.

“Taylor has just been a kid that since Day 1 of her freshman year that has been a libero for us and has had that pressure of the other colored jersey, and has carried it with pride and poise the entire time,” Belgrade coach Jade Schmidt said. “It’s something that I will continue to see out of her next year and in the future.”

Christensen is the program’s all-time leader in digs with 1,811, and that ranks second all-time (2,074) in the Montana High School Association record book. She also holds school records for digs in a 3-set match (33), digs in a 5-set match (45), and single-season digs (639), which ranks fourth overall in the MHSA record book.

“She’s just a great athlete. Seeing where she started at from eighth grade year and freshman year to where she is now is just a huge leap,” Schmidt said. “One of the comments I heard from a Division I coach is, ‘We never expected Taylor to get to the point that she’s at right now’, and that’s a testament to her work ethic and everything that she’s put in.”

Christensen received an offer Argos coach Arunas Duda over the summer, but was also interested in the programs at Gonzaga and Montana State University. Ultimately, however, having an opportunity to play with her sister proved to be too good to pass up.

“Definitely through high school I’ve been thinking about it. It would definitely be a positive and a huge reason why I went there,” Christensen said of playing with Bailey. “I’ve had the offer for a while. So just knowing what I want to do and just having it done is relieving.”

Signing Day

Belgrade junior Taylor Christensen poses for a photo with her family prior to signing a letter of intent to play volleyball at the University of Providence Wednesday morning.

Christensen also had an opportunity to be coached by Duda during a club tournament, and has participated in several summer camps hosted by Providence.

“Their coaches, I just really love them compared to the rest of the coaches that I met,” Christensen said. “They were just so welcoming and I love the campus.”

Duda guided the Argos to a 23-11 record this past season as the program made its first-ever appearance in the NAIA National Championships.

The Argos also won the Frontier Conference Tournament Championship for the first time in program history, upsetting top-seeded Rocky Mountain College in the championship match. Providence was ranked 17th in country entering the national tournament.

Christensen, who also competes in basketball and track, will likely break the MHSA record for career digs as a senior. She’ll also be looked upon for leadership as Belgrade moves up to Class AA beginning with the 2019 campaign.

“They’re getting just a phenomenal kid. She does things the right way, she has a lot of integrity, she is an extremely hard worker, she is very athletically gifted, and she’ll bring a high level of defense and serve-receive and serving to that program immediately,” said Schmidt. “They told me that they felt like she was the best libero in the state regardless off class. I would tend to agree with that. She just does so many things right and is incredibly disciplined and knows the game. She’ll bring a lot of knowledge to their program.”