By Brian Kalish

November 13, 2019

WAUSAU– It was a festive atmosphere outside of the cafeteria at Wausau East on Wednesday afternoon as Taylor Pagel and McKenna Taylor signed national letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level next year.

Pagel and Taylor will both be attending NCAA Division II Winona State University.  

Pagel will take to the volleyball court for the Warriors, while Taylor will run cross country.

Pagel is coming off a monster senior season that saw her lead the Wisconsin Valley Conference in kills with 195.  She also piled up 160 digs and a .938 serving percentage in Valley play.

That resume earned her a nod on the All-Wisconsin Valley Conference first team, where she was a unanimous selection.

“It’s pretty crazy to think that I’ve finally signed and I’m officially going to go to college and play volleyball,” Pagel said. “It’s pretty cool.  It was definitely a dream of mine as a kid to go and play volleyball in college, but I never knew if it was officially going to happen. So today, signing the paper, it’s official and it’s super exciting.”

Two schools were in the running as Pagel considered her collegiate options with Winona State and UW-Whitewater in the mix.  She toured each school twice. Ultimately, Winona State provided the right fit academically and athletically.

“I plan on majoring in chemistry,” Pagel said. “The coaches and players were super welcoming.  They’re all super great and I’m super excited.”

When asked to reflect on her career, and particularly her senior season, Pagel said East’s win over rival Wausau West in this year’s Volley for the Cure pink game was a highlight.  She also noted that the Lumberjacks’ volleyball program is heading in the right direction.

“I think this year for sure our team definitely stepped up,” Pagel said. “We had the drive to go farther than we did before and kind of give East a new name. It’s kind of been a rough road for us in years prior, but just this year, we really brought it. It was just super exciting for this to be my senior year and for us to go farther than we had before.”

Meanwhile, Taylor, who is fresh off an appearance at the state cross country meet in Wisconsin Rapids, is ready to begin a new chapter in her athletic career.

“It’s a big accomplishment,” Taylor said. “My freshman year, I never thought I would be signing. So to not see it coming and then experience the reality of it is really cool.”

Taylor finished 29th overall at the state meet this year and also had a solid showing in the Wisconsin Valley Conference meet Oct. 19, where she placed sixth.

When asked what moments stood out most this season, she was quick to mention the bond she formed with her teammates and coach.

“We’re such a big family,” Taylor said. 

Taylor visited Winona State early in the season and spent time with the Warriors’ cross country team. She immediately felt at home and developed positive chemistry with her future teammates and coaches. 

Winona State’s academic program for rehabilitation science helped seal the deal.

Taylor will run track this spring and then begin training for cross country in the summer. 

“They have a program we go through and have it all in place for what I should be doing,” Taylor said. 

“McKenna has been a really great kid to work with,” said East cross country coach Tim Olson. “She works really hard, has a really good attitude and knows what she’s doing. She just brings a lot to the team. She’s a great team leader and just really helps the other girls get better.”