When Taylor Saldana became a starter for the Providence High boys' volleyball team as a sophomore in 2013, he wanted to contribute and hopefully make some kind of impact with the Pioneers.
With talented athletes playing in front of him, Saldana was far from Providence's go-to guy. However, he did make his presence known as he helped the Pioneers win their first Liberty League championship in 13 years.
With the departure of the program's top two offensive weapons following the 2013 campaign, the spotlight was thrust on Saldana this past season. Not only was the junior asked to pick up the brunt of the offense, but he was moved from the right side to the left side and was named one of two team captains for the second consecutive season.
Saldana embraced his continuing leadership role and new position, guiding the Pioneers to their second consecutive league title and was named the Liberty League Player of the Year for his efforts. It is only the second time in program history that a team has won back-to-back crowns, the last time coming in 1996-97 under Andrew Bencze.
Saldana was joined by three teammates on the singular All-Liberty League team: senior setter Brandon Reyes, who was the team's other captain, senior libero/defensive specialist Justin Bicol and sophomore outside hitter Kieran McGroaty.
"It's nice to win the top award in league and it is something that I really worked toward this season," Saldana said. "It is an honor to get something like this.
"But it's also nice to have my other teammates honored, as well. Really, the main goal for us this season was to win the league championship and hang another banner on the wall."
After winning its first Liberty League championship in 13 years last season, the Pioneers lost two key players, namely All-CIF Southern Section standout Phil Harvey, who graduated. Harvey was the 2013 league player of the year.
After the team's next-best offensive weapon transferred, even Pioneers Coach Josh Eggleston thought the prospect of his team repeating as league champion was slim at best.
But his players kept telling the coach that winning league was something they could do, even if the coach brushed it off.
"It was understandable that maybe some other teams in league might have thought that we didn't have much this season because we lost a big chunk of our offense," Saldana said. "Every year we try to do our best and we want to win league every year. It might have been a little unexpected this year, but we were able to do it and win league."
With the Pioneers (16-11) stepping up, they sliced through the Liberty League, winning the championship with a 9-0 record.
In the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs, Providence easily defeated Pacific Hills, 25-12, 25-14, 25-10, in a first-round contest. The Pioneers fell in the second round, however,to Arrowhead Christian, 25-15, 25-13, 25-20.
Eggleston said Saldana was a steady force for the Pioneers the entire season.
"He really provided a ton of leadership, both vocally and on the court," Eggleston said. "If we needed something that had to get done we would go to Taylor. As a team leader, he and Brandon always made sure the team was moving forward and going in the right direction to accomplish our ultimate goal. He was great at keeping us focused.
"We don't keep stats for the season, but Taylor probably led us in just about every offensive category and he was a great defensive player as well."
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