EMU men's volleyball setter Christian Taylor (Richmond, Va./Deep Run) is getting a once in a lifetime experience this month, representing his country and his sport in Brazil. Taylor is on the USA D-3 Volleyball Team, which is playing matches in different locations around the South American country over a 10-day period.
The final roster of nine men was based off recommendations of coaches with Ron Smith, the director of the program from USA Sports Tours & Events, making the final invitations. USA Sports is sending a men's and women's select team to Brazil, with matches scheduled through this week, including this Saturday at the Marina Barra Clube's "International Challenge" in Rio de Janeiro.
This past spring, Taylor helped lead Eastern Mennonite to the championship match of the Continental Volleyball Conference Tournament. He finished his sophomore season second in the nation with 1,251 assists, averaging 10.51 per set. A two-year starter, Taylor is already No. 4 in EMU history with 2,012 career assists.
Corey Pieper of CVC-rival Rutgers-Newark joins Taylor on the national team.
"Being one of just two players from the CVC is an amazing honor," said Taylor. "There have been a lot of players in the past who have gone on this trip from the CVC that I have looked up to. The CVC is an extremely prestigious conference and being able to represent it is a privilege."
Other players on the team are: Brendan Baker of Johnson & Wales University (RI), Max Bongratz of Carthage College, Garrett Bucklin of Rivier University, Evan Lindley of New York University, Justin Feigeles of Ramapo College, Tim Robbins of Lakeland College and Ashton Sellers of Wittenberg University.
Taylor said EMU's Dan Lutz (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim), Tim Callahan (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) and Josh Elmore (Chester, Va./Matoaca) also received initial invitations for the team but were not able to join.
Charlie Ginex of NCAA-participant Kean is coaching the men's team. Kean will join the CVC this coming season, along with Neumann University and Southern Virginia. Ramapo will enter the league in 2018-19.
Along with the nine-member men's team, a women's team of ten is also heading to Brazil.
"This is an outstanding group of young men and women," said Smith. "Many of the players on this year's USA / Brazil Tour team had great individual seasons and led their teams into postseason play. This tour is designed to expose players to a great volleyball experience while providing a once in a lifetime opportunity for educational, cultural and social growth."
Taylor said the international experience he would gain going to Brazil would complement all of his off-season work in preparation for not only his final two seasons with the Royals, but also into his post-collegiate life.
"Being able to compete against teams from another country will hopefully provide me with an edge that I can take into next season with EMU," he said. "I am also hoping that this trip will provide me with lessons that I can take with me the rest of my life. I have never been out of the United States so traveling to a foreign country will be a new and exciting experience for me. I am really interested in digging in deeper to the Brazilian culture."
While in Brazil the teams will experience educational, cultural and social aspects of Brazilian life through city, school and sports club visits. They will stay on the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, and also tour Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer Statue, two of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.