Dear Bobcat Nation,
When we first met, I was just cleared by my orthopedic surgeon who had repaired the second ACL tear in my right knee. You probably saw me play in the last 30 seconds of a home game when our team had a 30-point lead. I would have been running the point guard position with my classmates Vanessa Udoji, Katie Grant, Jaden Ward, and Paige Warfel. We were “the Rookies” as Coach Fabbri called us, or the “practice squad.” But, we took pride in wearing those shirts during practice.
There were 15 of us: the five starters, the second, five-person Gold Rush squad, and us Rookies. It was our job to prepare seniors like Adily Martucci and Morgan Manz for teams like Miami. We knew our role and we owned it. In fact, we could run Scout O plays better than our own plays. If we beat the starters in a practice drill, they were yelled at for bad defense. Nonetheless, we celebrated all the small victories because those moments defined our freshman year. We were earning our end-of-game seconds. Coach Fabbri subbed the Rookies in to play out the final seconds of the Sweet 16 game against South Carolina. But I was sidelined in my travel suit due to lingering knee issues. I cheered on my fellow Rooks, but I desperately wanted those end-of-game seconds back.
I chose to stay for both summer sessions heading into my sophomore season. This was my summer to get right in the weight room and develop my skillset on the court. I’ve always played the game of basketball because I loved the point guard position. I loved being the vocal leader for my team, running the floor, and being that extension of the coach on the court. But Coach Fabbri and her staff needed me to become a shooting guard. This was the first time I felt like I was giving up a part of me as a basketball player. In the end, it was for the betterment of the team, so I would dedicate countless hours on The Gun developing my three-point shot and eventually get comfortable enough to shoot from deep range, risking stepping out-of-bounds.
Herd shoots three-pointer in a home game against Manhattan
After my friend and classmate Vanessa went down with an ACL injury during our sophomore season, I was expected to step up and fill her minutes. My role was to shoot the three and that’s what I did. But as all shooters do, I hit a dry spell towards the end of the season where I couldn’t get the ball to drop. My defense wasn’t as lockdown as it needed to be for me to be on the floor without scoring. So, Coach Fabbri had the difficult conversation with me before a film session during the MAAC Tournament that the coaching staff was going with a different starting lineup for the playoff games. I was devastated for a lack of words. But I couldn’t wear it on my face, especially heading into film with my teammates who were eager to win a championship. So, I prayed and asked God to help me get out of myself. It was for the team’s good, not mine. Our team would go on to win the MAAC Tournament again and beat Miami in the NCAA Tournament...again.
Junior year came and my individual goal remained the same: get better. I still wasn’t allowed to dribble from the 2 spot, as my teammates will attest to and joke about, but I worked my way back into the starting lineup during our non-conference schedule. We were versing ranked teams like Texas, and my three-ball was finally dropping! I had 15 points in that game. Coaching changes bounced me out of the starting line-up by conference play, and although I didn’t understand my coach’s decision, I knew by now to trust it. I reminded myself, “Team first.” I was eating breakfast in our team room in Albany when Coach Fabbri tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Congratulations, Sixth Man.” I earned MAAC Sixth Player of the Year for my junior season.
Taylor Herd receives Sixth Player of the Year award from MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor
Most recently, I was challenged to transition from a supporting role of Sixth Man to senior captain. I was asked to lead four first years, who would play significant minutes and starting minutes, while at the same time, expanding my skillset. For the first time in my playing career, I missed playing a supporting role. Day to day, despite what I was dealing with off the court, I was expected to show up to practice with a great attitude and hold my teammates accountable, which meant getting all the details right myself. I already had respect for my former teammates like Edel Thornton and Carly Fabbri who lead so effortlessly and optimistically. But my respect for them grew even more so as I tried navigating my teammates and I through adverse moments of the season, some controllable but most uncontrollable. Perhaps the most uncontrollable part of our season was the cancelling of our MAAC Tournament and the NCAA tournament as a whole. My motivation for this season came from wanting to play my part in earning the freshman their first championship ring. Jaden, Paige, and I would be giving them their first taste as champions.
I wanted to win this year’s MAAC Tournament especially because I thought that fourth ring would be validation that Jaden, Paige, and I did our part for the program, that we succeeded in our supporting roles. But after reflecting on how this senior season abruptly ended, it couldn’t have ended more perfectly. Jaden, Paige, and I remain unbeaten in MAAC Tournament play and are three-time reigning MAAC champs. And, our first years ended their freshman season on a win.
You see, when you and I first met, Bobcat Nation, I was disillusioned to believe that my basketball career here at Quinnipiac would be all about me. In life, we are called individually for a specific purpose, but we are also called collectively. And in order for us as individuals to contribute to that greater purpose, we need to get out of ourselves and give particular parts of ourselves to that purpose. Yes, my legacy as a Quinnipiac University women’s basketball player includes three MAAC Championship rings. But I want my legacy as a player to be a great teammate. I want to be remembered as the player who gave Sixth Man energy even on her lowest days, because God knows I had a lot of those.
To players who still have the opportunity to play the game of basketball...think of what your legacy will be not only as a player, but as a person. How will you use basketball to serve a greater purpose?
To Bobcat Nation - thank you for supporting me, on and off the court, for four incredible years. I’ll miss wearing my gold uniform in front of a sea of blue, but never forget the blonde shooter wearing number 2.