Weeks after North Myrtle Beach won the Class AAA state volleyball title, Chiefs coach Estelle Barentine was watching the film of the match when she noticed something special.
Her team had lost the first set to Pickens and she was talking to all of her players.
Well, all except two.
Off to the side, senior Taylor Allman was speaking with another Chief about strategy. Barentine never noticed until she watched the tape, but there was Allman, her top player, counseling another teammate.
“What can I say, she’s one of a kind,” Barentine said. “We knew when she was in eighth grade she was going to be special, just the way she carried herself. She was so much more mature than her years.”
Allman, the Toast of the Coast Volleyball Player of the Year, spurred a turnaround in that match, helping the Chiefs win the title with a 3-1 victory over Pickens. The senior outside hitter helped Barentine to a 30-1 season and her first and only state title at North Myrtle Beach.
The coach retired at the end of the season, but not before Allman put together the type of individual year that wrapped up with a team championship.
Allman knocked down 44 percent of her kills for a total of 348. She also converted 95 percent of her serves (201/211) and piled up 364 digs and 24 blocks.
For her efforts, she was named to the North-South All-Star team, the All-Region VII-AAA Player of the Year and the Class AAA All-State squad.
The crowning achievement, however, was that Class AAA title.
“It was the best that’s ever happened. It’s the first state championship our school has ever won,” Allman said. “We sat the team aside one day and we set goals. The main goal was the make it to the state championship game. Not to win it, but just to make it. We wanted to beat it. We wanted to win something that was more than our goal.
“If we weren’t fulfilling those expectations, we would stop practice and talk about it.”
By the midway point of the season, the team knew that its own goal – at least in the vernacular it phrased that goal – was probably a bit of sand-bagging. The team lost just one match all season and was among the state’s best in the Class AAA volleyball rankings the majority of the year.
All of that happened because of the strength of a team as a whole, and Allman’s ability to change positions.
After playing mostly middle hitter during her first four seasons on the varsity team, she switched to outside hitter as a senior. The team had a better support staff in the middle, and it could focus the offensive attack on the outside.
Her and teammate Ellen Johnson each set the school’s single-game record for kills in a game (19) and Allman’s overall kills tally set the school’s single-season record.
More than the numbers, though, Barentine credited Allman’s ability to adjust. It’s a trait she’ll take to one of the handful of college teams hoping to sign her in the spring.
“She’s been a work in progress,” Barentine said. “She’s been one of our best players every year. But then, she still improves. When she plays college ball, she’s going to get even better.”
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com.