At a smaller Division I school like Marist College, it’s not difficult to put a name to the face of the many athletes competing for the school. After walking around campus for four years with their bright red backpacks and constant Marist Athletics apparel, these athletes have established themselves as just that — athletes. As they round the corner to graduation, the question remains: who are they outside of their sport?
The following story is a part of Center Field’s 19 for ‘19: Stories of the Senior Class series.
A white and blue volleyball crashes hard and then slows to small staccato bounces on the hardwood floor in Orlando, Fla., signaling that St. Peter’s Women’s Volleyball has bested Marist College three games to one in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament. While scenes of jubilation pour from the St. Peter’s bench, the Marist College sideline is a solemn one, particularly for the seniors who had now officially donned Marist’s red and white uniforms for the last time.
Among these seniors is Taylor van der Biezen, who had started 60 straight games as a setter for the Marist Red Foxes. Tallying 2,753 career assists, Taylor has been part of the lifeblood of the Marist Volleyball Team for four years, and watching her collegiate career end on that November day in Florida surely must have felt like the end.
But it was truly just the beginning.
While Taylor will never again set another ball for Marist College, her days of assisting are far from over. Next year, Taylor will head to Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., where she will be a graduate assistant coach for the Bryant Women’s Volleyball Team.
At Bryant, Taylor will coach the team’s setters, scout opponents, watch film, create scouting reports and help with travel and food, all while taking night classes in order to get an MBA in Business.
“I’m excited to take my passion for coaching to the next level. I’ve known for years that I wanted to coach,” says the five-foot-ten senior from Ashburn, Va. “Having this opportunity to coach and pursue my masters at a place like Bryant is the perfect situation.”
While Taylor has never coached at the collegiate level, she is far from a coaching novice. Last season, Taylor — who is Marist’s fifth all-time assists leader — coached 14-year-olds playing for the local Apex Junior Volleyball program. All the girls at Apex were beginners, so Taylor was able to introduce the girls to the sport.
“Parents have come up to me and said that their child is still playing volleyball because of you and just knowing that you’re someone’s role model or even seeing them smile when they get their first serve over the net, those are things that are so rewarding and heartwarming for a coach,” Taylor said, beaming. “If they continue because of something I did, that’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
This season Taylor coached the setters at New York Elite Volleyball Club in Poughkeepsie. There Taylor coached 18-year-olds, which she believes will really help her when it comes to coaching the older girls at Bryant. “Coaching at New York Elite was helpful because it taught me how to not talk down to players and treat them with respect, while still being able to keep that coach-player relationship intact.”
On top of Apex and New York Elite, Taylor has coached at numerous summer volleyball camps. All of this coaching experience, coupled with her playing ability, will certainly help this summer when the season starts and Taylor’s next challenge begins.
Prepared or not, Taylor acknowledges that the player to coach transition will be a tough one. “I think just taking on that authority role is going to be so different,” she said. “I just love playing so much and going from being out there to just watching is going to be tough.”
Anyone who knows Taylor, or even anyone who has ever been in her presence knows watching from the sidelines will be tough for the three-time MAAC all-academic selection. Whether it’s in the classroom or the court, Taylor is always competing. “I just love to compete,” she said. “I know I can still find ways to compete as a coach by challenging myself and challenging the girls, but it’s definitely going to be different.”
When Taylor talks about loving to compete, she means it. As a player, Taylor played off and on as a freshman, but then played in every single game from her sophomore to her senior year (90 games) which included starting every game in both her junior and senior season. During her four year career she was named to the Volley in the Valley All-Tournament Team (2017), MAAC All-Tournament Team (2017), finished fifth all-time in assists at Marist (2,735), eighth all-time in service aces (111), 10th in single-season assists (1,086 in 2018), had 60 assists in a match (2017), helped lead Marist to their first win over Army since she’d been there (2018), and helped lead the team to four straight seasons with a winning record in the MAAC (2014-2018).
A Marist Honors Program student, Taylor accomplished all that while being named to the MAAC All-Academic team her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, frequenting the dean’s list, earning a degree in business and getting accepted into Bryant University’s master’s program.
While Bryant is certainly thrilled to add the wisdom of a winner and competitor like Taylor, and she is equally excited to join their already strong program that is coming off a dominant season in the Northeast Conference, saying goodbye to Marist won’t be easy for the Virginia native.
“Marist has meant so much to me, just being a part of a team. I had that set group of friends, we were one big family with one common goal working together to excel on and off the court,” Taylor said wistfully. “I’m going to miss everything about Marist.”
As for what the future holds for Taylor, she isn’t sure. She has toyed with the idea of going to law school down the road, but she says in a dream scenario — no matter where she winds up — she wants to continue coaching in some capacity.
This summer, Marist College Women’s Volleyball travels up to Bryant University to play Taylor’s new team in a preseason match. For the first time, the Marist standout will be in the opposing locker room attempting to help another school beat the team she achieved so much with. When Taylor was asked about that game, she smiled and simply said, “I know all those girls well, which means I know their weaknesses.” Still as competitive as ever, it seems clear as day this isn’t the end.
This is just the beginning.
Edited by the Center Field Editorial Team.
Header image by Kristin Flanigan.