During his recent 11-month break from volleyball, senior Hunter Taylor (Ashland, Va./Patrick Henry) wasn’t sure if he was going to come back to play his last season at EMU.
Hunter relies on a cochlear implant to allow him to hear. Last fall that implant malfunctioned, leaving him unable to communicate with his friends or participate in classes for nine weeks.
“[I] began to form a shell away from people as I would stay in my room all the time,” Hunter said.
During that time he was also dealing with the repercussions of his fifth concussion, which he got during the summer 2017 Deaflympics in Turkey.
“When I came back to the team the next semester I played for a few weeks before calling it quits because I had become scared to get another concussion,” Hunter said, “and that was taking the fun of volleyball away from me.”
Then last fall, during his hiatus from playing, Hunter coached his high school’s volleyball team. He made a deal with them.
“I promised to my high school team if they won state championships I would come back and play this year,” Hunter said. “And they won, so I came back and played.”
This year's EMU team has made the transition easy for him.
“The whole team I came back to was just very open, they loved each other, that was the biggest thing, we love each other. That’s why I came back.”
And despite his long break from training, Hunter is killing his senior season. That is, he is running at career highs in every statistical category. He also had 12 kills in the win over Randolph-Macon last Wednesday, which was the second highest match total of his career.
"That was a good win. I’m gonna say that because I’m from Ashland, so I live in like the backyard of Randolph-Macon,” said Hunter.
Hunter even coached Randolph-Macon’s libero when he was in high school.
“It was fun seeing how much he grew over the years, and finally getting the chance to compete against him.”
This year Hunter is playing outside, which is a new position for him.
“I’ve been a right side for the past four years, five years,” he said, “so yeah a whole new position. It’s definitely tested my patience, but it’s allowed me to open up a whole new side of my game that I never would’ve known I had before.”
Hunter is still wary of head injury, but that fear doesn't control him on the court like it used to.
“I definitely think about it when I get close to getting hit in the head...I’ve gotten over that fear, yes, but I still think about it.”
When he gets the chance, Hunter also likes to play beach volleyball. He had knee surgery two years ago.
“Beach is just easier on my knees because it’s not hardwood, it’s a soft impact, I can just fall without getting hurt.”
He hopes to continue his volleyball career after graduation and return to the Deaflympics in 2020, this time as part of the beach volleyball team.
“I'm still waiting to decide who’s gonna be my partner,” Hunter said.
And while he’s excited to graduate, Hunter is grateful for his time at EMU.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a person because of all the faculty, my teammates, and my coaches.”
He’s dedicated to making his last season at EMU a good one.
“This will be my last shot,” he said. “I want to give it all, give it what I got.”
-- by Elizabeth Nisly, EMU Sports Information Writing Intern