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West Ranch's Tanner Skabelund: Only one way

West Ranch senior Tanner Skabelund was raised to go full speed all the time

Posted: March 17, 2013 10:40 p.m.
Updated: March 17, 2013 10:40 p.m.

West Ranch senior outside hitter Tanner Skabelund was named to the All-CIF-Southern Section Division II boys volleyball team last year after helping lead his team to the CIF-SS Division II semifinals.

Tanner Skabelund grew up in an environment that demanded a lot.

The West Ranch High senior grew up in a devoutly Mormon family, which required him to spend several hours a week with church, volunteer work and various types of training and studying.

When it comes to his religion, Skabelund says, there was never any option other than a highly devoted, head-on commitment.

It sounds awfully similar to the way the senior has approached his development as a volleyball play.

“My mom is going to disagree with this, but having all this stuff on the side has taught me good time management,” Skabelund says.

Skabelund spends a minimum of three hours every Sunday at church meetings and missionary prep classes. Throughout the week, he attends various youth group activities and he volunteers his time to help out the elderly on the weekends.

Before school every day this year, he’s been waking up at 5 a.m. to attend seminary schooling through his church.

This is all mixed in with Skabelund’s volleyball practices and matches throughout the year.

He simply doesn’t know how to half commit to something.

“There’s lot of time that you put into (church) and it’s something that I’m grateful that my parents raised me to do because I’ve learned that when you put time into something, it really pays off,” Skabelund says.

But it goes further than time management. It’s the fact that the senior outside hitter has put everything he could muster into the sport he once scoffed at.

And after a little more than four years, it is indeed paying dividends.

Skabelund, a 6-foot-11 outside hitter and returning All-CIF player for West Ranch, signed a National Letter of Intent with Brigham Young University last November,

BYU is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I poll, but Skabelund was drawn to the school for many other reasons.

His parents both graduated from BYU. His mom was a track and field athlete there and his dad attended on an academic scholarship.
“I’ve got the best of both worlds,” Skabelund says. “I don’t want to say I have the brains of my dad, but I definitely have my dad’s smarts and my mom’s athletic abilities.”

Greg Harasymowycz, a former coach of Skabelund’s at the local Legacy Volleyball Academy, believes BYU made a good decision in recruiting a player like Skabelund.

A one-time volunteer assistant coach for the UCLA men’s volleyball team, Harasymowycz said there are several reasons why a big-time college program would want a player like Skabelund.

One of the biggest ones is his remarkable level of self motivation.

“It’s not because his mother or father tells him to or the coach does,” Harasymowycz says. “He does it because he wants to hold himself accountable.”

That was something Harasymowycz noticed in Skabelund right away. And that’s why the coach decided to take Skabelund under his wing when the two of them first came in contact.

Skabelund was always tall for his age, which dates back to when he started playing volleyball in eighth grade.

He was 5-foot-10 then when his junior high PE coach brought up the idea.

Skabelund admits he didn’t like the idea of volleyball at first. He viewed it as a girl’s sport. That was until he started playing and realized how good he could be.

He had grown to 6-foot-2 by freshman year at West Ranch, then 6-6 as a sophomore when he was pulled up to the varsity team.

“A lot of it was just perfect timing,” said West Ranch head coach Nate Sparks. “We had a role for somebody to step up. He wanted that role, and he stepped it up and did it. His height helped and his desire was even bigger.”

Last year was his breakout season. West Ranch needed a go-to hitter and a dominant offensive presence to round out the team’s experience at other positions.

By the time Foothill League play came around, every team in the area knew who Skabelund was and started to design game plans to try to slow him down.

Typically players his height are middle blockers due to a relative lack of speed and coordination.

But Skabelund is an exception with his overpowering arm swing and ability to elevate to the ball on the outside.
Neither of those skills are particularly common for nearly 7-footers like him,
“It’s kind of like  having a great pitcher in baseball,” Harasymowycz says. “He has great mechanics to spike the volleyball.”

He finished the season with 239 kills and came alive for 49 of them in four playoff matches to help West Ranch make its first CIF semifinal in school history when it played in the Southern Section Division II bracket.

West Ranch had to win three playoff matches to get to that game. Prior to last season, no West Ranch boys volleyball team had ever won a playoff match.

But even after helping bring the program to such prominence all in one season, Skabelund says he wants to end his high school tenure on top.

“It’s a long shot and it’s early in the season,” Skabelund says. “But I’m really dedicated to get my team (CIF championship) rings for this season.”


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