West High senior Ali TauchenBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Ali Tauchen is a goal setter.
The West High senior has made a habit of assembling a list of goals for herself and her team before each season in each sport.
Entering her senior volleyball season, the list for Tauchen was like that of many athletes.
Things like conference championships and state tournament appearances made the list along with individual aspirations.
What makes Tauchen’s list differ than most returning starters coming off an all-conference season was her first goal – to play.
Tauchen underwent surgery on her knee in January to repair a torn ACL sustained during basketball season.
As soon as the surgery was set Tauchen had her mind set on her goal.
“My goal was to make it back for my senior year,” Tauchen said. “It was really important to not just me but the whole team. It’s not just about me it’s about everyone and I wanted help them succeed and make their goals.”
There was a time when Tauchen wondered if she had played her final high school volleyball match.
During a December basketball practice over the Holiday break Tauchen made a jump stop on a fast break and fell.
At first Tauchen thought she could walk off the court herself. When she needed assistance to leave the court she began to worry.
The initial prognosis wasn’t too serious but by the time the results of an MRI returned Tauchen couldn’t help but think about the future.
“The doctors at first thought it didn’t look that serious so I thought maybe a month or two and I’d be back by the end of the season,” Tauchen said. “When I got the MRI back and found out it was tough. I didn’t know what to think about the future.”
The doubt didn’t last for long.
Tauchen had surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus in late January.
The rehabilitation process began almost immediately.
“The beginning was probably the hardest just because you aren’t able to do anything except lift your leg with weights on it,” Tauchen said. “Being an athlete it is hard to watch your team practice but I tried to be there for my basketball team and for my club volleyball team because I thought that was something that important.”
For West High volleyball coach Randy Dolson the question was not if Tauchen would return but rather when she would be back.
“I knew Ali had the work ethic to get back that wasn’t a question,” Dolson said. “We thought if she was back by September that would be awesome but if she was back by October that’s when the postseason starts.”
Tauchen surprised even herself with her recovery.
She cleared her final test to return to the court on August 19 and made her first appearance of the season in the MAC-MVC Challenge On Aug. 25.
Tauchen had 12 kills and an ace block in a pair of losses to Bettendorf on Pleasant Valley in her first game action since her injury.
The return of Tauchen has helped Class 4A No. 12 West High open the season 4-6 against a gauntlet of an early season schedule.
All six of the losses for West High have come to ranked teams including losses to No. 6 Cedar Rapids Kennedy, No. 7 Ankeny and fourth-ranked West Des Moines Valley at the Marj White Classic in Des Moines on Saturday.
“I think this team is really special,” Tauchen said. “The talent that we have is amazing and we are all really competitive.”
Tauchen has already achieved her first goal for her senior season by returning to the court.
The 6-foot-0, Missouri Western State commit still has plenty of goals for her squad entering Tuesday’s home matching with cross-town rival City High at 7 p.m.
“We are going to be really good,” Tauchen said. “As long as we can do all the things that we are supposed to we are very talented and we have the other things that are important like communication and trust.”