Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
PORTSMOUTH — Throughout her first three seasons in a Notre Dame uniform, Taylor Schmidt has always put her best foot forward … even if she’s suffered various bumps and bruises along the way.
One of the true embodiments to a strong culture that lies within the Titans’ successful athletic programs that have been tracked closely by many, Schmidt has proven herself as one of the best three-sport athletes in the entire Southeast District, if not the state.
And she’s done it while balancing nagging ankle and leg injuries that have limited the junior’s playing time, especially over the past year.
Through it all, Schmidt has shown incredible toughness in the face of adversity. The supportive environment that she’s around is what fuels her success in every facet.
“It’s awesome to be a part of programs that have such high expectations,” Schmidt said. “It always gives us something to work for. As a leader, I try to push my teammates to be the best they can be, and because we are all so close, it makes it easier to push each other because we know we have the best intentions for one another.”
Schmidt has been a difference maker inside starting lineups across multiple sports as her accolades suggest. A three-year starter on the girls basketball team, Schmidt’s made headlines with her tenacious, end-to-end pressure and her slashing style from an offensive standpoint, which has led Notre Dame to a blistering 72-5 overall mark with three consecutive undefeated conference crowns.
The Titans have also made three consecutive appearances in the district finals and have won back-to-back Division IV district championships, which has resulted in the junior obtaining Special Mention all-Southeast District honors in 2018 and second-team all-Southeast District accolades in 2019.
The off-guard improved her steals per game average from three as a freshman to 4.2 this past winter while cutting her turnovers per contest in half in the same stretch.
That’s all despite missing nine games due to a severely sprained ankle.
Volleyball-wise, in Schmidt’s two seasons as a starter under Kelsey Glockner, the Titans not only won their third and fourth district championships over the last five seasons, but also won the program’s first two regional semifinal matchups in school history.
Not surprisingly, Schmidt, who loves the defensive aspect of sport, started as a backline player and has collected 165 kills, 53 aces, 419 digs, 611 service receptions, and a 93.1 serving percentage. In her three seasons with the team, the Titans are 66-14 overall as a unit.
“Of the sports I play, I enjoy the defensive side of the game the most,” Schmidt said. “That’s where I feel most confident, and that’s where I tend to excel. Digging a hard-hit volleyball, making a double play, or picking someone’s pocket are a few ways I feel set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Speaking of double plays, there’s the softball side of the coin, which is a sport that Schmidt, much like her teammates around her, have serious potential in. After not playing as a freshman, the first-year varsity player earned a starting spot in the outfield in 2018 for a Division IV district finalist, then moved to shortstop this past year.
Despite having to fill the shoes of a multi-year starter, Schmidt has continued to make an outstanding impact. While she’s had to miss five games in order to properly rest injuries that have continued to hang around, Schmidt’s production hasn’t seemed to suffer much. She’s hitting an astounding .636 with a home run, seven doubles, nine RBIs, and 14 runs.
Those numbers have proved to be critical as Notre Dame’s pieced together a 17-1 overall record. Being a part of programs that have gone a combined 175-26 during her high school career certainly doesn’t hurt her feelings.
“My favorite basketball memory is definitely when we won districts for the first time in school history in 2018 [against Peebles],” Schmidt said. “The whole season in general was really special for me, and that was definitely the closest-knit team I’ve been a part of. My favorite softball memory was probably my first game last year. I didn’t play softball my freshman year, so it felt really good to be back. My favorite volleyball memory was when we beat Fort Frye in the regional semis last year. The atmosphere was crazy, and we really came together as a team, which made the win that much better.”
From a basketball and softball standpoint, Notre Dame’s continuity is almost unparalleled. In addition to having nine of the basketball program’s 17 players actively playing softball, J.D. McKenzie coaches both program and is continuing his reign of success on the diamond, having gone 37-7 since returning to the head spot at the beginning of the 2018 campaign.
“Our basketball and softball teams have most of the same girls and the same coach, so the transition between the two seasons is a lot smoother,” Schmidt said. “We’ve had such a tight bond with each other in basketball and it carried over to softball, which helps with little things such as communication and team chemistry. That’s what I think makes our team so special and successful. I’ve been so lucky with my coaching staff over the years. Coach McKenzie, being both our basketball and softball coach, has made such a huge impact on our lives. He knows the right approach for each of us individually, and he’s a very well-rounded coach in that he knows how to discipline us while still showing he cares. I’m blessed to have a role model like him in my everyday life and in sports.”
In addition to her abilities as a leader and as a defensive stalwart, Schmidt’s an athlete who can fly. With her, Olivia Smith, Ava Hassel, and Isabel Cassidy, among others, applying pressure on the basepaths, the Titans put pressure on the opposing defense at all times.
That’s resulted in an explosive offense that has a good mixture of speed and power, with Claire Dettwiller, Cassie Schaefer, Maddy Suter, and Chloi Hayslip supplying the lumber.
Those eight players, along with Madison Brown, Clara Hash, and Paetyn Collins, have all been critical as Notre Dame has posted 10 or more runs in 13 of its 18 games and six or more runs in 15 of 18.
“This year, we have a lot of quick girls, so we’ve been trying to put pressure on our opponent by being smart and aggressive while running the bases,” Schmidt said. “This forces them to make tough decisions that they aren’t used to making. For me personally, baserunning is one of my favorite parts of softball, so I’m really excited that we are using that aspect of the game to our advantage this year.”
Besides the nuances of the games that Notre Dame performs so well in however, the Titans have a great deal of advantages that will take them a long way, and arguably already have, across three sports.
One of those advantages is Taylor Schmidt — a fierce competitor who doesn’t back down from any challenge.
“We have pretty big goals just like we have had in volleyball and basketball,” Schmidt said. “We hope to make a deep tournament run like those we have made in the past. This season, we are looking to make it as far as we can and hopefully end our season with a win.”