Aug. 27—Ali Tauchen wasn't in need of much convincing.
With the NCAA granting players an extra year of eligibility as part of COVID-19 relief, the Missouri Western volleyball senior had a decision to make; return for a super senior season or jump into the real world.
With the goal of repeating what she did her freshman year, while furthering her education before medical school, it didn't require a whole lot of thought.
"This program is like a family to me," said Tauchen, a three-time All-MIAA selection out of Iowa City, Iowa. "Leaving them and the thought of not completing a real season with them was really sad.
"Now I get to have a real season with them, get closure and play with my best friends again."
Like all fall student-athletes in 2020, Tauchen and her teammates were left without a season and waiting to see if any competition would happen. The MIAA announced late in the year of a spring season and tournament to come, though it was ultimately a series of glorified scrimmages.
The 8-11 mark and MIAA Tournament quarterfinals weren't satisfying to the 2017 MIAA Freshman of the Year, who elevated herself to first team All-MIAA as a junior.
"Last year we were in this state of limbo the entire year. It kinda played with your head a little bit," Tauchen said. "You prepare for something, put all this effort in, then it'd be taken away from you. We've been working since last year. We've built this great team chemistry, and now we get to show everyone what we're made of."
Tauchen returns with one ultimate goal: Help Missouri Western return to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
"Her heart was still here," head coach Marian Carbin said. "Her heart wanted to get another trip to the postseason."
After all, she's the lone player remaining from the 2017 squad that won the MIAA Tournament and advanced to the regional semifinals.
"She's such a great leader to follow, not just because she says the right things but because she does the right things," Carbin said. "That's been super important over the last four years as we've tried to get back to the postseason — her knowing what it took to get there, but also her developing into the leader she had when she was a freshman."
Her freshman year, Tauchen was a key cog in a group of established players at the sophomore, junior and senior level.
Her and Jenna Boland are now the lone seniors on a group that hasn't played in two years and welcomes in six newcomers, though a spring to mesh has made for a confident two weeks of fall practice.
"Our chemistry, building together, we didn't get that before the spring," Boland said. "I feel like everyone's working together so much better now.
"Everyone plays super hard for each other. You wanna win for your teammates all the time."
And most importantly for Tauchen, she gets a say in how her career ends.
"You can't replace time, it's always slipping away," Tauchen said. "We got a whole year together to play, practice, have fun, and regain our passion for volleyball.
Brandon Zenner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowZenner.