Taylor Rowland won’t mind being away from her family this holiday season.
Taylor was selected to attend USA Volleyball’s Girls Select Holiday Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., Dec. 26-30. The Cox Mill High freshman will be spending the week training with the 48 best players in her age group in the country.
Taylor, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter, has played club volleyball for three years. She is coming off a high school season in which she was selected to the South Piedmont 3A all-conference team and was named Cox Mill’s offensive player of the year.
“I have a big passion for the sport,” said Taylor. “It really comes naturally for me. I want to reach the highest level I can.”
Taylor is a member of the Lake Norman Volleyball Club. In the upcoming season, the 14-year-old will play for its 16-under Black team, its top squad for that age group.
For two seasons, Taylor has played for Lake Norman’s 13-under Black and 14-under Black teams. Last year, the 14-under Black team qualified for the USA Volleyball national tournament in Minneapolis.
USA Volleyball governs selection of the national men’s and women’s volleyball teams that play in the Olympics. Like other sports, USA Volleyball also regulates programs for top players in younger age groups to develop future national team players.
Taylor’s advancement within USA Volleyball has taken place through its High Performance Department, which coordinates youth and junior national teams. Taylor currently falls in the “select” age group, which includes players born in 2000 and 2001.
In each of the past two years, Taylor has attended USA Volleyball tryouts in the spring. Players audition in front of national coaches hoping to be placed in one of three groups: A1/Continental, A2 or A3.
In 2013, Taylor was selected for the A2 group and attended summer training camp in Tulsa, Okla.
This past summer, Taylor made the prestigious A1/Continental group and spent a week in Oklahoma City training with the best 120 select players in the U.S.
“The A2 camp wasn’t as organized as I thought it would be,” said Taylor. “The training was a good experience. The A1 camp was more organized. We got a lot more individual work.”
A1/Continental players consider their summer camp as a tryout for the holiday camp. Taylor was shopping with her mom when her mom received an email from USA Volleyball confirming her selection.
At the time, Taylor was in the middle of an outstanding high school season playing for Cox Mill. She helped the Chargers to an undefeated regular season and a conference championship.
Cox Mill lost in the second round of the state playoffs to North Henderson. Taylor led the Chargers with 265 kills and with a .411 hitting percentage.
“She had a very strong offensive showing for us,” said Cox Mill coach Michelle Phillips. “There are going to be a lot of good things that come out of the (holiday) camp for her. We’re really looking forward to next year.
“It’s a great opportunity for her to continue her training at a high level. It’s a bonus for all of us (at Cox Mill) because she can bring back some stuff she learns for us too.”
Taylor is preparing for the upcoming club season with Lake Norman Volleyball Club. In addition to her 16-under Black team practices, Taylor is also training individually with Lake Norman coach Wade Pearce, working on her vertical jump and seeing the ball better.
“I want to be more explosive and get quicker,” said Taylor. “I want to reach the highest level I can coming out of camp.”