Brian Rosen took over the Charlotte Country Day volleyball program in 2009, and has since built the Bucs into one of the state’s best teams.
While they’ve increased their win totals each season under Rosen –culminating in a 34-6 state championship this year – it wasn’t until 2011 that the Country Day program took its biggest jump.
It also was the year Bucs junior Taylor Portland arrived as a freshman, simply looking to fit in.
“My game has changed so much over the years,” Portland said. “I was a nervous freshman following the lead of the junior hitters and I wasn’t even that strong of a hitter yet. I had some technique, but I didn’t really have any power. I’ve found that power over the years and gotten better as a hitter and all around as a player.”
And as Portland’s game has progressed, the accolades have followed.
She was a member of the nationally acclaimed Frosh 59 in 2011, and later earned a spot on the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association Phenom List. She picked up her first all-conference nomination in 2012 and was all-conference again this season while earning a spot on the all-state team after topping the 1,000-kill mark earlier this season.
Now Portland is the 2013 Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s Southern Mecklenburg Volleyball Player of the Year.
“As a player, she’s so consistent,” Rosen said. “She never makes errors. When you watch her hit, she’s going to keep putting the ball in good spots, she’s going to put every ball inbounds, she’s going to force you to do something with it and she’s going to score.
“That’s one of her biggest strengths, she’s just so consistent and it’s in practice and in the match.”
While Portland’s on-court talent is undeniable, it’s in the huddle where Rosen also sees her as arguably the Bucs’ most important player.
“She’s a vocal leader for us,” Rosen said. “She’s the energy and she’s the person during timeouts talking to the team and they always look to her.”
Portland said she equally relishes her roles as consistent playmaker and vocal leader for the Bucs.
“There are pros and cons to everything, but for me it’s about finding the balance where I’m powerful but consistent,” Portland said. “I love how talkative the game is and how much you rely on support from your teammates. I think that I can be that support on this team and it’s a really powerful position for me and it gives me a lot of confidence in myself.”
When the Bucs found themselves in an eerily similar position in this year’s state finals, it was Portland who calmed her teammates down and allowed the Bucs to claim the state title.
Country Day led Charlotte Latin, 2-0, in the 2012 state title match, but let the lead slip away. This year they jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Covenant Day, who took the third set.
That’s where Portland came in.
“In the state championships, when we lost that third set and the Covenant Day fans were chanting ‘Déjà vu’ I could hear her talking to the team,” Rosen said. “She’s the go-to person and people respond to her.”
After racking up team and individual accolades throughout her star-studded career, Portland is ready for the encore.
“Winning the championship, it’s an awesome feeling,” she said. “It’s exciting, it makes me excited to play, excited to play club and for just knowing how successful my team can be and how great it feels to be successful and how far that can take us.
“Yes, we won the state championship. But we can win it without dropping a set or win even more games next year. There’s always something we can improve on. The only thing we can do as seniors is come out and win it