Fresh off the bench, middle blocker Taylor Gregory made noise as a redshirt freshman, but after a dismal showing in his sophomore season, Gregory re-evaluated his volleyball regime.
Gregory captains the Long Beach State men’s volleyball team in addition to leading the nation in blocking. He averages 1.53 blocks per set, but the motivation to stay consistent throughout each season was not easy for the 6’7” junior from Saugus.
In his freshman year, Gregory led the nation in blocks, averaging 1.47 per set, establishing a LBSU freshman record totaling 156 blocks. His sophomore season, Gregory lost the top spot in the NCAA rankings dropping his blocks per set average down to 1.03.
“I had a pretty successful freshman year, and then dropped off last year,” Gregory said. “That was on me. Physically, I wasn’t taking care of my body. Mentally I kind of got complacent.”
With a majority of his time in high school spent focusing on football, Gregory had to adjust his lifestyle when he came to LBSU. Head coach Alan Knipe said that younger players can be intimidated by the pace of a seasoned college athlete, and have to adjust to that way of living.
“Taylor was a little behind on the maturation process,” Knipe said. “He was a little heavy for a volleyball player, but he worked incredibly hard and changed everything about how he ate and took care of his body and was fully committed as an athlete.”
That dedication to change his attitude earned Gregory the role of captain. As the only returning starter from last year’s team, Gregory made a point to truly embrace his leadership role and help the younger players.
“I made it a goal and a point for myself to come in this year as the only guy with playing experience in the MPSF and kind of take leadership and set an example,” Gregory said. “I wanted to help out the team in any way I can. I didn’t want to make it about me in any way.”
Off the court in his redshirt freshman year, Gregory struggled in the classroom, trying to maintain his grades while becoming an integral part of the team. His first semester, his grades fell, but with the help of the assistant coach Chris Seifert, Gregory was able to bounce back and earn above a 3.0 grade point average his second semester.
“Coach [Andy] Read had me spend some time with the coach Seifert, the assistant coach at the time and that set me straight in a way,” Gregory said. “He really pushed me and mentored me. He put me in the right mindset about being in college and knowing that it’s an opportunity, not a privilege to be here.”
Assistant coach Tyler Hildebrand said Gregory has a great mindset when it comes to school and volleyball and he is always willing to better himself.
“I think Taylor is a kid who, if he sees a way to improve in an area he’s willing to make sacrifices and do what it takes to get better,” Hildebrand said.
That effort paid off for Gregory when he earned the All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Honorable Mention in 2013 and placed himself on the fast track to earning another achievement for his performance this year.
Knipe called Gregory an incredible player, and that it was an honor to have him on the 49ers. He described Gregory as being self-motivated and sets the example for the team as a role model.
“He’s come a long way not only in his volleyball game and IQ, but he has physically matured,” Knipe said. “He transformed himself physically into a big time Division I athlete.”
Gregory said one of his goals was to continue his volleyball career playing for the United States men’s national team. Most importantly, he said that people look at him, he wants to be remembered as a great leader.
“Taylor Gregory is a great teammate, that is what I want people to think about me,” Gregory said. “I want to be that guy that younger guys look up to and strive to be like.”