Entering into a winning basketball program is by no means an easy way to begin a college career. The competition for playing time is undoubtedly fierce, and the hopes for a freshman guard to crack the lineup lies solely within her smooth long-range shot. Now try facing this situation with the remnants of a torn ACL meniscus floating around your knee and a cloud of uncertainty floating above your head.
Taylor Solomon came into her freshman year at Linfield with the understanding that her playing time would be limited, if she even had the opportunity to see the floor. Despite being cleared to play, signs of instability were still present before Solomon had a chance to get into a varsity game in 2011-12.
“It just wasn’t cooperating, so I decided to sit out and redshirt in order to avoid risking further injury,” she said.
Having played the sport she loves competitively since first grade, Solomon’s time off was understandably difficult to cope with. “It was hard to watch, but I went to every practice and game and I traveled with the team,” she reflected. “It was tough to adjust, accept it and move on, but I knew I had things waiting for me in the future and that everything happens for a reason.”
Flash forward 365 days and it is easy to see that the recovery has truly been remarkable.
In terms of Solomon’s spot on the squad, nothing was set in stone in terms of where exactly her particular skills would fit in. “I knew I would play this year, but I wasn’t sure how many minutes or what my role would be,” Solomon said.
As it turns out, Solomon has become of the most integral figures on the roster. On a team loaded with guards, she has battled her way into significant playing time. In 24.3 minutes per game, she is averaging 6.7 points and a team-best .317 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. “I am glad to be back out on the court helping the team, and we are really working together and improving every day,” said Solomon.
“She has gotten so much more confident at the (point guard position) later in the season,” team captain Katelyn Henson said. “She is able to call the plays and get us going, and now that she is getting more playing time she is realizing that she can be a threat.”
Perhaps the fact that Solomon is healthy now and playing better than ever can be attributed to a so-called ‘fresh start.’ While Solomon sported the No. 3 jersey (fitting considering her specialty) throughout high school, upon arriving at Linfield she “went with 15; I decided to start fresh.”
The sophomore is somewhat of a creature of habit, following a pregame routine of a nap, a Subway sandwich, and – most important of all – throwing in three pieces of gum before tipoff.
As far as her teammates are concerned, Solomon can stick to whatever habits she wants to as long as she continues to be the role model she has been for the younger players so far in her career. “She is always really positive, keeps her head during games and works well with the coaches,” fellow guard Catie Mets said.
The ‘Cats have undeniably struggled to win in 2012-13, and the stress put on the players has been difficult to handle at times. This being said, players like Solomon embrace the underperformance as a mechanism for improvement. “We have a young team and over time we will continue to work hard and get better,” Solomon confidently said. “We will be together over the next two years and we will really learn how to play together and strongly improve.”
While a lot of the pressure for success falls on players like Henson and Kaely Maltman, the skill set Solomon brings to the table is absolutely essential in order to construct a winning squad. “You need a point guard who is calm,” Henson said, adding, “Taylor has a great shot, rarely turns the ball over, and she deserves everything she is getting.”
Mets agrees with Henson, as she explained that Solomon “has a lot of composure, and knowing that she will take care of the ball gives me confidence.”
While the goal of reaching the top of the NWC is on the Wildcats’ horizon, Solomon recognized that there is still work to be done in the final three games of the 2012-13 season. “All we can do is try hard, finish strong, and get a few more wins,” she said.
Solomon cut out soccer and softball upon entering high school in order to focus on honing her basketball skill set, and credits her parents with providing unconditional love and support throughout her playing career. “They are my biggest fans and have made it to most of the games,” Solomon said. “They have always told me ‘keep working hard, and if you play as hard as you can then things will go your way.’”
Solomon hasn’t quite lined up a career path yet, but the business major is intent on keeping her options open. “I still have an extra year because of the injury,” Solomon said although she indicated it is unlikely she will complete a fifth year at Linfield.
For the near future, Solomon will take what she learned from the devastating injury and apply it to her already strong will to bring a sense of regular winning back into the Wildcat basketball program.
-- Evan O'Kelly '13
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