LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- With the volleyball's 3-0 win over Piedmont on Saturday, head coach Heather Taylor achieved her 100th victory in her career at Covenant. Taylor, who is in her seventh season as head coach, was recognized before the game on Tuesday night against Agnes Scott by her team and fans for her accomplishment.
Taylor was named head coach before the 2006 season. In her inaugural year at the helm of the Lady Scots, Taylor's team finished 10-24. From there, her teams have continually gotten better, averaging 15 wins a season coming into this year. Last season's record of 22-9 is one of the best in all of school history. The Lady Scots are off to another tremendous start in 2012 with an 11-3 record.
The Covenant graduate was no stranger to building successful programs. From 2001-2005, Taylor served as the head coach at Gordon-Lee High School in Chickamauga, Ga., where she built the program from scratch into a state tournament team.
Former players speak volumes about the impact Taylor has had not only on their volleyball ability, but on life as a whole. "It takes a strong woman of God to win volleyball games while popping out three children," said Kristin Cobler (formerly Dahlstrand), who graduated in 2012 and played all four years for Taylor. "No matter how successful we are we all need a coach to encourage us, to challenge us, and to remind us of our potential. Coach Taylor reminded me of my own potential, even when I felt I had fulfilled it. It's that tough love that develops us into better players and followers of Christ. She reminded me not to live comfortably, but to live boldly for the Lord on and off the court."
Taylor's teams have been successful both on and off the court during her time at Covenant. Last season, five players were named to the Great South Athletic Conference All-Academic team, with two players earning All-Conference selections.
Former players speak highly of Taylor's ability to motivate them in all walks of life. "She was a wonderful motivator on the court and in my walk," said 2012 graduate and four-year player Erica Adams. "She was a huge reason for why I went to Covenant and I am so grateful for all her time, encouragement, and determination."
"She has invested deeply in her players and has shared great wisdom with us," said Jessie Fleming (formerly Jakes), who also graduated in 2012 after playing four years under Taylor and was one five to earn GSAC All-Academic as well as All-Conference in 2011. "Her transparency and genuine care for me and the other members of my team blessed me immensely."
Current assistant coach, and a graduate of Taylor's program at Covenant, Joanna Ehman has witnessed both sides of the coach. Ehman (formerly McGill) was an all-conference performer all four years and was named captain of the team her junior and senior years by Taylor. Less than two years after she graduated, Ehman was brought on board by Taylor as the program's first full-time assistant coach before the 2011 season.
"Coach Taylor doesn't coach just because she loves the game of volleyball, though that's a big factor," noted Ehman. "She has a passion and a gift for building up young women in their walks with the Lord. She cares about each of her players and sees them as future wives, mothers, and leaders and sets an admirable example for each of those roles.
Ehman continued heaping praise upon her former coach. "She doesn't motivate by putting fear into her players. Her players perform well for her because they know they are cared for and supported by her. Her coaching style had a positive impact on my life and how I relate to others - I pray that I am one day able to inspire athletes to greatness the way that she has done."
Part-time assistant coach Stephanie Wharton is in the unique position in which she experienced win No. 1 and 100. Wharton played one season for Taylor in 2006 and is now on the coaching staff with Ehman. "She has never wavered in her long-term vision of coaching her players to become strong women of God," commented Wharton, who is the all-time leader in digs at Covenant. "Her dedication to writing thorough practice plans to get the most out of each player and the team as a whole has certainly contributed to her success."
Wharton also noted Taylor's ability to build lasting relationships with her players, both present and past. "It's her willingness to build lasting relationships, her gift of empathy to share in tears during a player's struggle, her encouragement from Scripture, and her example of leaning on Christ as her Rock that have led her players to grow as women of God. Players are equipped to be better volleyball players, friends, and eventually wives and mothers."
Fleming and Wharton both see the impact that Taylor has had on their lives outside of the volleyball court. "Coach Taylor is a woman that I deeply respect," continued Fleming. "I am very grateful for what she taught me about volleyball, but I am even more grateful for what she has taught me about Godly womanhood."
Wharton added, "I am deeply grateful for her influence on my walk with my Savior, my outlook as a coach, my relationship with my husband, and my journey into motherhood."