Much of the confidence Middle Tennessee State’s new volleyball coach exhibits is closely linked to one of the program’s incoming players.
Sophomore setter Taylor Hammill has the qualities to be one of the Blue Raiders’ valued cornerstones as the program looks for a turnaround after amassing a 22-67 record the past three seasons.
Hammill, a four-year starter at Center Grove from 2012-15, played in only one set all season for Auburn as a freshman last fall and decided to transfer.
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“Over Christmas break is when the idea came into my head. At the end of January, I started reaching out to other schools,” said the 5-foot-11 Hammill, who also considered Wright State, Delaware, Murray State and Pacific as potential destinations.
“(Auburn) just wasn’t what I expected, but my coaches there were very supportive and wanted me to be happy. We left on very good terms. I’m so thankful for that.”
One of the coaches who helped recruit Hammill to Auburn was Chuck Crawford, a Tigers assistant the past three seasons. In January, Middle Tennessee State hired Crawford as its new head coach.
Crawford, 38, an avid rock climber — he’s scaled 14,400-foot Mount Rainier in Washington state — who once spent three years as a professional bull rider, isn’t afraid of challenges.
He’s been presented one at Middle Tennessee State.
The Blue Raiders, a member of the Sun Belt Conference, are 28-47 against league foes since the beginning of the 2012 season.
Middle Tennessee State returns six of the seven players who finished last season with 100 or more kills. Hammill, who despite transferring will not have to sit out one season, is expected to take the place of former Blue Raiders setter Jacqueline Lux, a Shelbyville High School alum who graduated early.
The other two setters on the program’s 2016 roster transferred, leaving Hammill and incoming freshman Maddie Sweeney to compete for the job.
The Blue Raiders open the season by taking part in a tournament at Austin Peay State University from Aug. 25 to 27. They play matches against Missouri-Kansas City, Missouri and Northern Iowa.
Hammill’s arrival has her coach believing something special is on the horizon.
“Taylor has amazing leadership qualities. When she committed, I actually got teary-eyed because she’s such a special kid to me,” Crawford said. “Taylor is an amazing young lady. Her character and moral compass are impeccable.”
Family: Parents Bob and Julie; sister Madison, 15
High school: Center Grove (2016)
College: Middle Tennessee State (2020)
Major: Mechanical engineering