Local volleyball observers know all about the Taylor Richard who hammers balls from the outside and causes opposing coaches to plan their defenses around her.
This year, though, a new and somewhat unfamiliar Richard showed up on the first day of Silverado’s practice. She shagged loose balls, cheered on teammates, raced to put away equipment and even chose what color uniform the Skyhawks would wear.
In short, Richard leads.
"Over the last four years, I’ve had to develop a better court presence because I started out not so good and I had a bad attitude," she said. "I just learned that it doesn’t help me and it doesn’t help the rest of my team.
"It’s my senior year. I can’t do it anymore. It’s my last year, and I might as well make the best of it and just have fun."
Fun for Richard probably equals trouble for Silverado opponents. Confidence is running high for a team that believes it has gained the chemistry that was missing from a talented 2008 squad that lost in the Class 4A state semifinals to Bishop Manogue.
"I feel like we have so much more chemistry than we’ve had," Richard said. "We get along so well on the court and off the court. It’s kind of like a family coming into the gym."
Few players can do more than Richard, a four-year varsity outside hitter with a thick file of honors, including a state title as a sophomore in 2007.
The honor roll grew during her club season this summer with the Southern California Volleyball Association High Performance squad. She earned all-tournament distinction in the European Global Challenge 2009, a competition that took her to Italy, Croatia and Switzerland.
More important than the award is the perspective Richard gained. Noting the communication and camaraderie of the High Performance team, she deduced those characteristics were the missing links at Silverado last year.
"She walked in the first day and said, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ " Skyhawks coach Jennifer Boeddeker said. "She’s very respected by the rest of her teammates. To see Taylor Richard actually cheer on her team, I think it’s fabulous.
"I think that’s kind of where we failed last year. We didn’t have that one person that stood up and pulled everyone along. This year Taylor is really leading from the front as opposed to pushing from the rear."
Richard credits her new positivity not only to the Europe experience, but also to learning from her sister Sam Richard, a former star at Silverado who plays at UNLV. Taylor Richard has not committed to a college, saying only that she prefers to go out of state.
For now, her focus remains on bringing together a Silverado squad with seven returning players that is poised to compete with Green Valley, Coronado, Bishop Gorman, Centennial, Las Vegas and others in Southern Nevada.In-depth high school sports coverage
PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Bishop Gorman: Liz Manthei, Kylie Shaw
• Centennial: Morgan Vierra
• Coronado: Katie Gamsky, Kuulei Piena
• Durango: Borjana Djukic
• Green Valley: Siga Appelgate, Jena Chavez
• Las Vegas: Natresha Bernard, Danica Pickett
• Legacy: Kayla Murray
• Palo Verde: Tori Lounsbery, Ainsley Lovejoy
• Silverado: Marilyn Agae, Kaitlin Keathley, Taylor Richard
• Valley: Maureen Aquino