Deer Valley graduate shines at Colorado Mesa University

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

Deer Valley graduate
Taylor Woods

Photos courtesy Colorado Mesa University
Deer Valley graduate Taylor Woods has led Colorado Mesa University team for four years and is on pace to break numerous school volleyball records.

Deer Valley graduate Taylor Woods was one of the most underrated volleyball players in the West Valley and wanted a challenge when she made her college decision in 2015.

After struggling through the recruitment process, the school she selected has made her a better person as well as volleyball player, she said.
 
“I hated the recruiting process because it was so difficult and pulls on your emotions and I struggled with my confidence,” Woods said during a phone interview. “I did not get a lot of offers, but I believe I made the right decision.”
 
She elected to continue her education and career at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo., a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II school.
 
“I know CMU was where I needed to come,” Woods said. “I really think this is the perfect place for me, and being a Division II school, I could not imagine myself at a Division I school and I love the way the public supports us at CMU.”
 
CMU head coach Dave Fleming said he saw something that drew him to recruit her.
 
“(Woods) came to our camp the summer before her senior year in high school,” Fleming said. “Right away, you could tell she was a talented, athletic libero and brought energy and enthusiasm to the gym. I recognized that she would help make our team and culture better and would be a great fit as a Maverick. We offered her right after camp.”
 
The rest, as they say, is history.

Drawn to the sport early

She began playing after watching her older sister play volleyball and falling in love with the sport. When she was old enough, she played club volleyball.
 
“When I was watching my older sister, I enjoyed the sport and always wanted to play, but you have to be older and I wasn’t allowed to play when I was 6,” Woods said. “As soon as I turned 7, I was old enough and I joined my first team.”
 
While only 5-foot-3, Woods is tailor-made for the back row and became the libero. The libero is a player specialized in defensive skills and usually wears a different color jersey from her teammates and can replace any back-row player, without prior notice to the officials.
 
“I played since I was like in second or third grade. I’ve been playing it pretty much my whole life,” she said. “I figured (I’d never play on the front row) when I got to middle school. I was on the short end of the stick.”
 
She said she quickly enjoyed the game and was drawn to the speed and finesse of the action on the court.
 
“The best part early was I loved that it was such a fast game,” Woods said. “It was so much fun immediately and I was hooked from my first return of the ball.”
 
While growing up, she played numerous positions, but said the mental side drew her to the position she has excelled at.
 
“I played a lot of positions while I was growing up, but I always ended up as the libero,” Woods said. “Coaches have said I am mentally strong on this position and I really can’t remember a time when libero was not in my life.”
 
Fleming points out that Woods shines more than just on the court.
 
“She always tries to put the needs of her team before her own,” Fleming said. “She leads by example with a great work ethic and consistent energy. She is also a nurturer and has a great relationship with everyone on the team.”

Breaking records at CMU

Woods played four years at Deer Valley, leading the Skyhawks to the playoffs each season, as the Skyhawks averaged 26 wins a season, but they never advanced past the quarterfinals in her four years.
 
When she joined the CMU squad, while entering coming off an injury, she showed early what she could do.
 
“The first weekend of her freshman season, she was coming off an injury and didn’t really make an impact,” Fleming said. “The second weekend, I subbed her in as libero and she has been our rock ever since with her consistency, and she is very reliable and finished the year recognized as the freshman of the year for the South Central region (of Division II playoffs).”
 
Entering her senior season, currently she has the rally-scoring (after 2001-present when volleyball rules changed) in digs with 1,679 (as of Sept. 6). Only two pre-rally players have more with 1,679 (as of Sept. 6). She averaged 507 digs over her first three seasons and, if she reaches that total her senior season, she would finish her career just short of the school record of 2,542 (set from 1991 to 1994 by Amy Miller).
 
Fleming is quick to point to the impact she has made for the Mavericks.
 
“(Woods’) impact on this program is immeasurable because when you don’t have to worry about one position and you can focus on everyone else, it is a nice problem to have,” Fleming said. “She is a great libero, a great teacher and a fantastic young lady. We are blessed that she is a Maverick.”
 
Woods said she is lucky to have such a supportive family that regularly makes the eight- to nine-hour travel to watch her play.
 
“My parents come to every home game, and I am so grateful for all their support because it has been amazing,” Woods said.
 
Fleming added that he has given Woods even more responsibility, and surprised her during a summer program.
 
“We had a camp this summer and there was over 150 kids in our gym and I unintentionally threw a curve ball at (Woods) and told her she was going to teach the entire gym floor moves,” Fleming said. “She quickly grabbed the microphone and proceeded to direct all the campers how to correctly execute floor moves. If you didn’t know it, it looked like she spent hours preparing the lesson. It was very impressive from a teaching, coaching and leadership perspective.”
 
Woods is majoring in elementary education and wants to become a teacher, although she is not sure where.
 
“Everyone tells me not to return to Arizona to teach, but I don’t know,” Woods said. “I am keeping all my options open and wouldn’t be against coming back home to be a teacher.”
 
Fleming said Woods will be tough to replace when she graduates. 
 
“(Woods) will be missed when she graduates,” Fleming said. “It will be impossible to replace her energy, enthusiasm and work ethic.”

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