CARY, N.C. – The numbers don’t lie.
In 2010, when Taylor Antolino was a freshman defender for the Hokies of Virginia Tech, she started once and saw action in 12 of the team’s 21 games.
The following year as a sophomore, she appeared in just five games and took a single shot against Elon.
She made another dozen appearances as a junior in 2012, playing all 90 minutes in a start against Oklahoma.
This is what the numbers said in a nutshell. Her playing time coming off the bench was limited, that much was obvious. What wasn’t so clear cut was how she handled the situation.It’s one of those intangibles in sports – she could either take what playing minutes she got and her practice time as an opportunity to improve her game, or she could simply complain about the injustice of it all.
She took the high road.
“This team is very good at playing as a group,” Antolino said, a communications major. “It’s obviously a good experience starting, but it wasn’t difficult to watch them play because we’re all cheering each other on. We’re like a family.”
Would Antolino rather have been on the field, as opposed to standing on the sideline? That’s a given. Every athlete wants playing time, but she had a game plan for one day reaching that goal.
“There’s always something to strive for,” she continued. “Working hard day in and day out, it was just something where I hoped I would get my shot.”
Virginia Tech Chugger Adair appreciated Antolino’s dedication to the program, and not just to herself.
“She continued to work and continued to maintain a belief in the culture of the program,” Adair said. “She’s been there for the team. We started her one game late in the year last year to give her an opportunity she deserved. We had some very strong seniors that were starting ahead of her. She was patient.”
Once Antolino got her shot at outside back this year, she ran with it.
“She’s playing solid,” Adair added. “She’s been giving us solid minutes, creating goal-scoring opportunities at outside back. But also, she’s been quick to recover. She’s provided a lot of hard and gritty work that isn’t always noticed.
“It’s a lot of back tackling and covering for other people. Her season has been very good, and I’m very happy for her that it’s been such a positive season and that she’s had the impact that she’s had.”
Going into this season, there were questions here and there about how the team would fare with three new starters on defense. Each stepped up and contributed to the team’s style of attack.
“Getting forward into the attack is always something I enjoy doing, and is kind of working for us right now,” Antolino said. “The outside back getting forward is very important to this team. That was something I worked on.
“I think where we are right now is a great thing for us. We have a lot of trust within our team. We all trust each other to step up when you need to. We all knew that if we played the way we were capable, we would be successful.”
The results have shown on the field this year for Virginia Tech. A defender, the Washington Crossing, Pa. native has started 25 of the team’s 26 games so far, and is third on the squad in playing time with a total of 2,307 minutes.
Down the stretch, she became one of the team’s best players and helped lead the Hokies to their first College Cup appearance in school history.
Virginia Tech takes on Florida State Friday at 5 p.m. at WakeMed Park. The Hokies have fallen to the Seminoles twice in 2013, including the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game.
Both losses have been close – 2-1 in the regular season, 1-0 in the ACC finals. Antolino never counted herself out as she watched from the sidelines, and she’s not counting her team out now.
“I’m very happy to be a senior and to be ending my soccer career with this kind of experience,” she concluded. “I believe things happen for a reason. There’s a reason that this is the year I’m starting or that this is the year that all these things are happening. It’s very special to be a part of this, and I’m very happy that I am where I am and that the team is where this team is.”