After coming back from a one-set deficit against Dartmouth on Friday to take a 2-1 lead, the Harvard women’s volleyball team led 8-4 in the fourth. Unbeknownst to captain and outside hitter Taylor Docter, she was only one kill away from breaking into the Crimson’s top-10 career kills leaders.
“I hadn’t been following at all,” Docter said. “My mom probably follows more than I do; she probably had it on her radar, but I had no clue. I’m glad no one said anything because that would have maybe made me nervous.”
Docter didn’t look nervous as she leapt to play a ball from freshman setter Hannah Schmidt and dropped it between the Big Green’s defense, registering her 15th and final kill of the evening.
Docter’s tenth double-double of the season—she reached 15 kills and 15 digs—was instrumental in Harvard’s victory, its first win against Dartmouth since 2008 and the first of Docter’s Crimson volleyball career.
“Dartmouth has always been one of those teams we have been very evenly matched with, but it has been one of those games where we walk away thinking we should have won, which is one of the worst feelings,” Docter said. “It felt really good to finally feel like we performed the way we should have.”
Docter’s final kill gave her 922 on her career, tying her with Katie Turley-Molony ’07.
“It’s exciting, especially because we still have six games, so hopefully I can get in some more kills and move up the list,” said Docter, who currently trails Katherine Hart ’01 by 11 kills.
Since her freshman year, Docter has developed into the Crimson’s top offensive threat. She currently ranks fifth in Crimson history in attack attempts, sixth in service aces, and eighth in kills per set average. Despite now reaching the top ten in a fourth category, Docter is more concerned with winning games than personal achievements.
“She’s very excited about all of that, but she doesn’t want to be in the limelight,” Crimson coach Jennifer Weiss said. “She just wants the whole team to do well. She is very much a team player and it’s so genuine, which is refreshing to see.”
Docter credits her teammates for her success, especially Schmidt. Harvard plays with two setters on the court, but the rookie is the one who supports Docter in most of her kills because of her place in the rotation.
“She has been doing an awesome job,” Docter said. “A lot of the reason we are doing better recently is because she has totally sped up her offense.”
Friday’s game was a showcase of the Crimson’s attack, which led Harvard back after the team dropped the first set. The Crimson displayed a balanced attack in its 3-1 victory, with Docter, junior right side Erin Cooney, and freshman outside hitter Kathleen Wallace all registering double-digit kills for Harvard.
After going 2-9 to open the season—including a loss to the Big Green in September—the Crimson is currently riding a three-game winning streak, its longest of the season. Docter believes that her and the team’s recent success is a testament to teamwork.
“When you are playing with the same girls every year, a lot of it just comes from getting better at playing with the girls next to you,” Docter said. “They help me look good because they are improving as well.”
After playing front row as a freshman, Docter has put in the hard work to become a more well-rounded player. Each year she has seen increased playing time in the back row, and this year she is playing all six rotations.
“She has always been an impact attacker for us,” Weiss said. “She is diversifying her shots, and she has worked on the back row attack and the defense. [The record] is a credit to her hard work and belief that practice matters.”
Weiss credits Docter’s fitness level and focus entering the season.
“She was here this summer working in the lab but she was also working out,” Weiss said. “She’s very diligent about that so when we got to preseason she was ready to go. She has really committed a lot of time and energy to the team.”
And now Docter has permanently cemented her place in Harvard history. With six games left to play, she has ample opportunity to climb the all-time career list. Docter, who averages 3.19 kills per set, sits 53 behind seventh-place Kat McKinley ’09.
“Taylor is a gifted athlete and a hard worker,” Weiss said. “If you stay patient over time, good things will happen, and good things are happening for her.”