Piedmont’s Simpson set strong example

Volleyball Player of the Year

by Aaron Garcia

Piedmont senior Taylor Simpson led the Panthers to a third consecutive league title, a 25-3 record and a second-round playoff appearance, en route to being named Union County Weekly’s 2011 Volleyball Player of the Year. (Aaron Garcia/UCW photo)

When asked to define her day-to-day role on the Piedmont volleyball team, senior Taylor Simpson paused.

After some thought, Simpson’s mind gravitated to her job as team captain. Simpson explained that, as a three-time Rocky River 1A/2A conference Player of the Year, she realized she needed to set an example for her teammates, and that impact was often best felt by remaining upbeat during practices. It wasn’t always easy, she said, especially since she balanced volleyball with her job as the football team’s kicker.

“I had to leave that all behind and let (the other players) know this is what we’ve got to get done,” said Simpson, who will play at Cape Fear Community College next season with an eye toward transferring to a four-year program.

“(I also had to be) very focused on the court, even when I wanted to joke around or when I didn’t really feel like playing, constantly keeping the team alive.”

Not too uncommon for a team captain. But from a performance perspective, Simpson’s role on the court was unlike any other player’s in Union County. As the Panthers’ primary setter, Simpson distributed 364 assists on the season.

But what truly set Simpson apart this year was her well-rounded impact on the rest of the court. Unlike many setters, Simpson also had the ability to fill a hitter’s role, and did so with gusto, recording 211 kills and 134 digs with six blocks. Throw in 89 service aces for the 25-3 conference champion Panthers, and Simpson was more than worthy of being named Union County Weekly’s 2011 Volleyball Player of the Year.

Simpson, who cut her volleyball teeth while playing on her family’s sand court, actually credited her background as a soccer player with much of her success this season, especially while playing setter.

“In soccer, you have to see the field and know what’s going to happen before it even happens,” she said. “Especially being a setter, you’ve got to recognize your blockers and where they’re at so you can decide who to set up.”

But the ability to distribute points was just a small part of Simpson’s impact this season, said Piedmont coach Kim Cantey.

“She was just an all-around leader for us on the court,” Cantey noted. “Every game, there was always something that she did that (made you say), ‘Wow!’ She’d sacrifice her body, she got to every ball she could. She was our setter, and she went for everything.”

And without too much thought, Cantey added: “There aren’t many players that are going to do the things she did.”

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