Standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Maria Taylor believes she has a built-in advantage as a college football sideline reporter: “I can see over some of those lineman when they are in the huddle and confirm exactly what is going on.”
That’s something play-by-play commentator Joe Tessitore and analyst Matt Millen have come to rely on from Taylor this and every fall Saturday for their games on ESPN (No. 5 Stanford at Washington State, 10 p.m. ET).
Her height often has aided her sports career. Before joining ESPN, Taylor got her first television exposure as a volleyball player at Georgia (2005-08).
Tonight, when ESPNU serves up in-state rivals NC State at No. 15 UNC as part of the network’s Wednesday Night Women’s Volleyball series, Taylor will once again be courtside calling one of 10 matches on her ESPN schedule this season. Front Row sat down with Taylor to talk about NCAA volleyball and her atypical work week covering two sports.
ESPN continues to expand its college volleyball package. Why do you think the sport makes compelling television?
I think that people love to watch volleyball because it is up-tempo, fast-paced and a very explosive sport. There is hardly a time when there is a lull in action, so it really grabs the attention of viewers.
How has being a former NCAA athlete helped you in your role at ESPN as a college football sideline reporter?
I understand that players have their coaches demanding perfection from them and that they are missing class time because of travel. Even though they are being pulled in several different directions, it is their job to perform at an elite level every week. So when I see certain types of body language on the sideline and different coach/player and teammate interactions, I recognize where it stems from and can really put it into context with my reporting.
Mon. – VB conference calls with both head coaches. Build charts and game notes.
Tues. – Travel to VB match campus. Attend home team practice
Wed. – CFB coaches’ call for Saturday’s game. VB production meeting; pre-match team practice; match coverage
Thur – Fly to CFB site; watch home team practice
Fri. – CFB meetings with team coaches
Sat. - Game day! Production meetings, warm-ups, game coverage
Sun. – Fly home, unpack. . . re-pack.
Which ESPN volleyball matchups are you most looking forward to watching?
Well, you can never go wrong with a Pac-12 in-state rivalry game like UCLA at USC (ESPNU, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. ET) will be a great one and I am sure it will have conference championship implications written all over it.
I am also intrigued by the Florida at Texas A&M match (Nov. 3, 2 p.m., ESPNU). Texas A&M won the SEC West in their first year in the conference and they have brought more strength to the SEC. I think that will be a tough match for a Florida team that really wants to be in Seattle for the national semis this year. That late season match on the road will be a great test for the Gators but could also give the Aggies a quality win as they work to build their NCAA resume.
And also UCLA at Oregon (Oct. 11, 11 p.m., ESPNU). . . If you like Oregon football, you will love Oregon volleyball. Their volleyball team’s offense is just as fast and unpredictable as their football team’s.
Editor’s note: To learn more about ESPN’s 2013 NCAA Volleyball Schedule, click here.