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Taylor finds the perfect fit with Newberry

Posted: November 20, 2017 9:44 a.m.
Updated: November 21, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

LUGOFF-ELGIN SENIOR NATALIE TAYLOR signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her academic and volleyball-playing endeavors at Newberry College while flanked to her right by her mother, Janna Taylor, and to her left by her grandmother, Elaine Voiles. Looking on from behind are L-E athletic director Matt Campbell, L-E head volleyball coach Katie Ham, Taylor’s grandfather, Steve Voiles, L-E assistant volleyball coach Von Duncan and L-E principal Worth Thomasson.

Even at a young age, Natalie Taylor had a mind and a plan of her own.

As a third-grader, Taylor was asked by her mother, Janna Taylor, if she wanted to join the S.C. Midlands club volleyball team for which Janna Taylor worked. The younger Taylor told her mother that she would rather wait one year before joining the program. 

The one-year delay on her arrival onto the court turned out to be a smart move for the Lugoff-Elgin senior whose final act as a Lady Demon was signing a National Letter of Intent to continue her academic and volleyball-playing pursuits at Newberry College.

Shortly after posing for post-signing pictures with family, friends and teammates inside the L-E Wellness Center, the affable Taylor was all smiles when asked what went into her final decision as to where she would spend her college years.

“I loved the coaches and the campus is beautiful,” she said of Newberry. “I’m already close with a lot of the players and the coach (Callie Youngman) reminds me of my high school coach, Katie Ham, so I relate to that a lot.”

Youngman was named the Wolves’ interim head coach last March after taking over for her predecessor, Todd Hay, who took the head coaching position at Anderson College. It was Hay who first saw the potential in Taylor.

“I became interested in Newberry my junior year when Todd (Hay) was the coach there,” Taylor said while explaining her recruitment by Newberry. “Then, I went to a recruiting camp there this past summer and (Youngman) showed interest in me. I took a visit to the campus and she offered me.”

Taylor, who was named to the 4A All-State team after having been accorded All-Region 6-4A honors at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign, can be described as a gym rat who stayed on the court well after most of her teammates had already left the gym following that day’s practice. It was a routine which started when she was playing club ball in Columbia.

“Everybody tells me that I was a natural at it,” Taylor said of her early days playing volleyball, “but I stayed after practice for about 30 minutes to an hour at a time being hit balls by coach Glen Dimapan who would hit the balls at me as hard as he could and I would just keep digging them out.”

The 5-foot-8 Taylor played four seasons with the L-E varsity squad, including the past three under Ham who has guided the Lady Demons to the third round of the 4A Lower State playoffs in each of the past two years.

Ham, who led L-E to a 25-8 mark this past season, said what you see is what you get from Taylor.

“Off the court,” Ham said of Taylor, “Natalie is an awesome young lady who is a leader and who works hard in everything that she does. She’s very goal-oriented; if she knows that she wants something, she is going to go after it.

“She also brings that on the court, as well. She has fire when she plays and has quick movements.”

With eight full years of club and high school volleyball under her belt, Taylor has developed a strong all-around game. She was listed as a defensive specialist/outside hitter for the Lady Demons. That, however, does not tell the whole story on the versatile Taylor.

“They want me either as a Libero (defensive specialist) or, a setter,” Taylor said of her anticipated role at Newberry. “I feel more comfortable at defense because that is where I’ve played most of my life.”

Ham said Taylor is a player who can be plugged in at any spot on the floor and can help a team due to her vast skill set. 

“They recruited her for her defense but Natalie also has good hands so, they can also use her as a setter. She’s going to do well at that level,” said the Lady Demons’ head coach.

The biggest change which Taylor said she can expect beginning next fall is how the game is played at the college level along with who is playing it..

“Definitely playing against older players,” she said of the biggest chance in making the jump from high school to college volleyball. “Instead of being the top dog on the court in high school, I will be playing against college seniors.”

Having played club volleyball and then being part of a quick-set, up-tempo scheme at L-E, Ham said the transition to college will not take Taylor by surprise when she arrives on campus next summer to start practice for the 2018 season at Newberry.

“The pace of the game will be quicker and the hitting will be harder but Natalie’s used to it,” Ham said. “I think that she will be fine. She will adapt well to college and to the college game.”

The volleyball part of the college experience and, beginning, again,  as the new kid on the block is something which Natalie Taylor has experienced. Being away from home for the first time, meeting new teammates and making new friends is also part of the college experience and is something which she is eager to experience.

“I’m going to have to meet new friends because I don’t know a lot of people on campus but I’m very outgoing so, I think I can do that,” she said with a laugh. She then went on to explain another reason why she likes playing volleyball and being part of a team.

“I like the friendships that you make,” she added. “Yeah, there is drama on the team but they are the ones who will have your back more than anyone else.”

Having been around Natalie Taylor for three years, Katie Ham smiled when asked the adjustments which one of her former will have to make at the next level. “I feel that Natalie is very diverse and she will be able to fit in with anyone when she goes to college,” she said.

 

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