Carol Taylor isn't consumed with the idea of someday winning a national volleyball championship. She could just as easily live without one.
And she has for the last 12 years, ever since she took over the Anne Arundel Community College program.
Still, Taylor wouldn't mind experiencing the thrill of such an achievement. She even jokes about performing cartwheels around the four walls of the college's gymnasium if it does, indeed, happen.
Taylor won't issue any predictions about how far this year's team will go -- making bold claims has backfired in the past -- but she will say that the current group of Pioneers is working well together.
She also will marvel at the long-desired height she now sends out on the court, with 6-foot-3 Jennifer Erlandson and 5-foot-10 Susan Nelson and Danielle Gerkin.
Anne Arundel struggled to a disappointing 19-22 record last season. Taylor never had finished below .500 until 1988, when the Pioneers again under-achieved and went 17-19.
"This team is working better together than any I've had in the past," she said yesterday afternoon from her office, while down the hall her players began practice with an assortment of drills.
"That's been one of the prime factors why we haven't done as well the last two years. Volleyball involves so much teamwork, and the personalities just didn't gel last year. We tried everything under the sun, and nothing could bring them together."
"We're communicating better now," observed Nelson, one of only three sophomores on the roster. She also is the lone returning starter.
"We have a positive attitude this year. I think we can do real well. We have the talent to have a winning season, and we all get along better."
The Pioneers are running a more complex offense this season, containing five or six different plays.
"We've never done that before," Taylor said. "That shows I think this team is capable of doing more than those in the past."
One reason may center on the backgrounds of the majority of her players. Four of the 10 Pioneers graduated from Severna Park, where the volleyball program has produced six straight county and four consecutive regional championships.
Toss in the two Broadneck and two Chesapeake grads now donning Anne Arundel uniforms, and Taylor finds herself surrounded by athletes accustomed to winning.
"That certainly helps," she said. "And some of them have played in junior programs, too. They've been taught well. We can move forward from where they already are."
The 5-1 offense is run by Anne Arundel features setter Amy Hopkins, who knows she must perform well for the Pioneers to win consistently.
"I was the only setter at South River, so I'm used to it," she said yesterday, taking a short break from an hour-long scrimmage. "I can't get nervous, which I usually do in games. And I have to have good passes, or I don't set well."
"I know it's hard on her," Taylor said. "She has to think well out there, and she's showing she can do that."
The Pioneers won their opening match on Monday, sweeping a weak Washington Bible College, 15-1, 15-0, 15-9.
"We didn't get much competition," Hopkins said, unable to accurately evaluate her own performance. "We really couldn't get into it. We didn't even break a sweat."
They will this weekend. The Pioneers left this morning for North Carolina, where they will face two highly-rated opponents -- host Chowan Community College and North Greenville College of South Carolina.
Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990