Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
On top of winning an Alabama Community College Conference championship, competing in the NJCAA Tournament and being named the ACCC co-Player of the Year, Taylor Spradley recently received nationwide recognition for her prowess on the volleyball court.
The Gadsden State sophomore earlier this week was named one of six NJCAA Division I Volleyball Honorable Mention All-Americans. An outside hitter, Spradley is the first GSCC volleyball player to be selected as an All-American since Katie Ball in 2006.
Spradley (pictured above) finished the 2019 season as the conference leader (and third in the NJCAA) in kills with 611, averaging 4.63 per set.
“I knew I had been [nominated], but I didn’t know if I would actually get it or not, so it’s a great honor,” she said. “I’ve had a volleyball in my hands since the first grade when I was going to little kids’ camp, so I’ve been playing for a while, and making it this far and accomplishing all the things I have, it’s pretty special.”
“Volleyball is a family affair in the Spradley family. Taylor’s mom Billie is the assistant coach for Gadsden State and a former assistant coach at Alexandria High School, where Taylor graduated from and won a Class 5A state championship with in 2017. GSCC sophomore Aubrey Gray and freshman China Lane were Spradley’s teammates in that team.
“Not many athletes had their mom as a coach in high school and college, and it was really special to win two [state] titles with her,” said Spradley.”
The Lady Cardinals ended a 14-yeart state championship drought by capturing the NJCAA Gulf Atlantic District title on Nov. 3 at Snead State. Spradley was named Tournament MVP.
“I think [the ACCC title] was more special (than the AHSAA high school title), because we were so close (at Gadsden State). This team really wanted it really bad, and we got it. All the girls had the same mindset of wanting to win, and they mean everything to me.”
After winning its first two matches of the district tournament, Gadsden State was swept by Monroe (NY) College in the finals, forcing the Lady Cardinals to play a second championship match.
“There were some tears shed in the locker room between the [title] matches, and I think that made us stronger as a team and showed how bad we wanted it,” said Spradley.
Although the Lady Cardinals went 0-2 at the NJCAA Division I national tournament last month, in Hutchinson, Kansas, Spradley very much enjoyed the overall experience.
“We did try our best, but the other teams were so much bigger than we were, so we didn’t have the height that they did. We were told to just go have fun and whatever happened, happened. I think the most fun we had (on the trip) was flying, because a few of the players had never been on an airplane before. Getting on the plane, staying up all night, getting off the plane, visiting schools and doing activities with the little kids was a great experience.”
Spradley’s collegiate volleyball career is far from over. She will play next fall for the University of West Georgia, where she plans on studying mass communications.
“I’ve always been in a small area like Alexandria and Gadsden, so I really felt that I needed to get out of my comfort zone a little bit. West Georgia is more college-like, like having a football team and lots of things going on around the campus. When I visited, I really got the feeling that this could be my home for the next two or three years.”
“I do think that Taylor can step in and contribute right away,” said Gadsden State head volleyball coach Connie Clark She’s going to have to work hard, but she definitely will be an asset for their team. Taylor is one of those players who is not going to accept losing or finishing second.”