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Handling the Offense for the First Time: Taylor Hammond

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Competitive. Intense. Random. Easy-going. Leader.

These are all words that redshirt freshman Taylor Hammond's teammates used to describe him. But if you ask the man himself, Hammond couldn't pinpoint just one to sum up his entire personality.

"A lot of the things that come out of my mouth aren't serious," laughed Hammond.  "So I don't know how they would describe me."

8560696 (1).jpegLast year the 6-foot-4 setter never saw the floor, waiting in the ranks behind senior AVCA All-American Edgardo Goas. In his second season with the Nittany Lions and first as an active member of the roster, Hammond has made an immediate impact.

He's controlled the Penn State offense in all 54 sets that the team has played this season, and recorded 595 assists in just 15 matches. What's more is that the first-year starter has quickly become a leader among his veteran teammates.

"I think this team has kind of asked me to step into more of a leadership role," said Hammond. "We've got a lot of quieter guys on the court and not in a bad way, it's just kind of how it is. Being more of a vocal leader on the court and just making sure that everybody's on the same page - that's my job."

And although Hammond is new to the court in a blue and white uniform, volleyball is something that he's been around for longer than he can remember. His father, Doug Hammond, was also a volleyball player and had a big influence on his son.

"Volleyball was kind of just what I did," said Hammond. "I started playing at a very, very young and have always been around the sport. [My dad] played on the beach and I just kind of fell in love with the game and was always around it."

The Mission Viejo, Calif. native said that one of things he liked most about the sport growing up was the close-knit community that came with it.

"I love the atmosphere around it," said Hammond. "It's always a good, friendly atmosphere and win or lose everybody is just buddies. This team is the same way."

Hammond said that it was an easy transition coming into the Penn State volleyball program and, after less than two years in Happy Valley, the 20-year-old said that he already feels like a part of the family. That tight connection and close bond that he's created with his teammates off the court is something that he said has also really helped him as a setter.

And his teammates have noticed.

Senior opposite Tom Comfort said that he's already seen an improvement in Hammond's game from the beginning of the season. Comfort acknowledged the fact that his new setter is quickly learning how to successfully run a top-ranked offense.

"Your hitter makes an error, he'll go right back to you because he has that trust in you and he has that faith in you," said Comfort. "You love playing for a guy like Taylor because he's got the heart and soul of the team."

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