Taylor twins leading way for Grand Valley State's run in DII title quest
SALEM, Va. –- Briauna and Brittany Taylor arrived at Grand Valley State as a packaged deal four years ago – much to the delight of two of the schools’ athletic programs.
In the winter time, they play for basketball coach Janel Burgess. In the spring, they are under the tutelage of veteran softball coach Doug Woods. And the softball coach has had the chance to get some extra time with the identical twins, as the Lakers begin play in the NCAA Division II softball tournament at the Moyer Sports Complex in Salem.
The Taylors are a big reason why Grand Valley State got there.
Last week, the Lakers took the lead in their best-of-three super regional with top-ranked Indianapolis after Brittany singled her sister in from second base with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 3 to make the score 3-2. Pitcher Sara Andrasik then got through the top of seventh, and Grand Valley State was officially advancing.
"For Briauna to get on, and then have her sister hit her in, that’s pretty exciting,” Woods said, who has been at GVSU for 23 seasons. “Twins are always close. Those two are extremely close, so it was real nice to see that.”
The Taylors are now in the fifth year of what will turn out to be a five-year experience at GVSU. As incoming freshmen, the twins decided to play just basketball that first year.
Woods said both he and Burgess recruited the Livonia, Mich., natives when they were in high school and were ready to work out a deal to share the Taylors’ talents. When they signed on to play, the two were strictly basketball players that first year.
“Two sports is a lot for a freshman, so I didn’t have them that first year,” Woods said. “I was willing to wait.”
Both of the Taylors had an instant impact on the basketball team. Both played every game as freshmen, and Briauna was a regular starter from her sophomore year on and led the team in scoring all three of those seasons.
Brittany regularly came off the bench, and by her junior year was the team’s second-leading scorer, but one bad step during a drill in practice midway through her junior year resulted in a serious knee injury that required surgical repair of both her ACL and MCL.
Because of the timing of the injury and required rehab time, Brittany decided to pass on using her final year of basketball eligibility and focus on getting ready for softball. And now that season has led to a spot in the championship.
“It was tough,” Brittany said of her recovery time. “But I wanted to make sure I’d be ready for this softball season.”
Briauna Taylor said watching her sister go through the rehab also motivated her to improve her own work ethic.
“It made you focus on being the best you can every day,” Briauna said. “You never know what’s going to happen. … [Last year] I was going out and practicing as hard as I could. And I think that had a good effect on the team as well. It let us know that tomorrow is never guaranteed.”
Woods said once he had both Taylors back on the softball field at the start of this season, that attitude of working hard every day continued. And with eight seniors on this year’s roster, he expect the Taylors – who will strictly be softball players next year – will be the leaders of what he expects to be a transitional 2014 season.
“What I like about them -- besides their softball skills – is their character,” Woods said. “They’re both just great individuals. They battle – they really play.
“We’re going to build the team around them next year. [Briana’s] an infielder and [Brittany’s] an outfielder. So they can sort of control what’s going on out there defensively for you. And they can hit well, too.”
But for now, the focus is on what’s left of 2013. The Taylors say they would like to extend this season all the way through the weekend.
“We’ve already beat the No. 1 team, so I feel like we can beat anybody,” Brittany said. “I think we have the right mentality. We like to just go in, be positive and have fun. We know what we can do.”