In her second year, her performance fell short of her expectations again. She felt like maybe she couldn’t improve.
But Whipple knew she had more to give.
“He sat down with me and he was just like, ‘Taylor, just take this spring and give it 100 percent effort,’” she said.
“‘Forget about the coaches. Forget about whatever’s happened in the past. And after you give your 100 percent, if you can still say that you want to quit, then fine. But you have to make sure that you throw it all out on the table.’”
‘Didn’t want to be normal’
Adam Speight, Treacy’s coach for the Magnum Volleyball Club, remembers holding a defensive specialist practice in 2012 when Treacy — who was not a defensive specialist — walked in.
He thought she was at the wrong practice. But Treacy, who would head to Chapel Hill in a few months, just wanted the extra practice.
“That is one of the things that will always stick with me,” Speight said. “It just showed what kind of trajectory she was on.”
That trajectory started in seventh grade, when Treacy started playing volleyball. By eighth grade, she was pulled up to the high school varsity level and joined a club team. But Treacy sought more.
“I just didn’t want to be normal, I guess,” she said.
She set her sights on Magnum, a premier volleyball club in South Carolina. At 15 years old, she didn’t just want to make the team — she wanted to play with the 17-year-olds.
“She needed to play with older girls,” Speight said. “She needed to get pushed in a way that she wouldn’t have gotten pushed.”
Treacy said trying to make that team was the first time she had to work hard for something on the volleyball court. She played fearlessly.
“She was one of my favorite people I ever coached,” Speight said. “Because she was — she always kept it light ... but then she was insanely competitive. It was such an interesting juxtaposition that you just rarely see in players.”
‘Who is this on the court?’
Treacy found out she was redshirting in a hotel room on the first day of the 2012 preseason.
“Coach was like, ‘Alright, we have 18 girls on the team this year,’” she said. “‘Two of those girls are redshirting: Hayley McCorkle and Taylor Treacy.’ And I was just like, ‘Hm. OK.’”
“I kind of knew it was going to happen. But still that was like, ‘You couldn’t have told me before the meeting?’”
Sagula said he told Treacy months before that she would redshirt, but the hotel announcement was the start of a tough year for Treacy.
Treacy and McCorkle didn’t travel with the team, so they spent weekends watching the games together. When McCorkle’s parents took them to watch away games, the two players would wander college campuses and talk about what they would do when they could finally play.
“It was like little kids again,” McCorkle said. “Dreaming about what they would do in the future.”
When their time came the following season, McCorkle could tell her friend was unhappy — Treacy didn’t have to say anything.
But the mental roadblocks didn’t last.
After her conversation with Whipple, Treacy decided to leave everything on the court. She remembered how hard she worked to make the 17-year-old team for Magnum, and how she played fearlessly because she loved it.
Her teammates noticed.
“I think we all were (surprised),” McCorkle said. “I think we were all like, ‘Who is this on the court?’ ... I think the whole team was just shocked.”
Whipple said he never told Treacy to stay. All he did was tell her what she needed to do to reach her goals.
Treacy had to decide for herself whether she wanted take those steps.
“If we don’t have that discussion, Taylor probably would’ve quit,” Whipple said. “So it’s very gratifying for me to know I had a positive impact on her life.”
‘What we worked for’
Today, Treacy is an All-ACC player and an All-America Honorable Mention. She’s played in the Elite Eight and anchors the No. 11 Tar Heels in her final season.
But those accolades are not her biggest achievement.
“How proud I am of her has very little to do with what she does on the little 30-foot-by-30-foot piece of volleyball court,” Speight said. “It’s just watching the way she’s grown as a person ... I’m just so extremely proud of her.”
Treacy’s teammates call her ‘mother,’ because she checks on players one-on-one and pushes her friends to work harder in practice — just like her coaches once pushed her.
“When the coaches ask for something to be done, she does it,” McCorkle said. “When she knows that she’s messed up, she comes back with a better play. So I think that’s the way she leads the other girls.”
Treacy said she doesn’t feel like she’s been a leader on the court this year. But Speight remembers Treacy relaxing her club team by cracking a joke or belting a song.
That’s what he said is great about Treacy. She doesn’t try to lead. She just does.
“Her leadership was — I think it was greater than she ever realized,” Speight said.
Sagula has watched Treacy mature since she committed to UNC as a high school sophomore. The first-year who feared failing has become a fierce force on the court — and a gracious teammate off of it.
“She’s one of the people I’m most proud of, most excited about, in the last 10 years,” Sagula said.
For McCorkle, watching that growth is a source of joy.
“That’s all you want to see,” she said. “Especially somebody that you went a whole redshirt season with, somebody that you shared goals with, someone that, basically, you cried with.”
“When you see them prosper, you can’t do anything but be happy and understand — this is great. This is what we worked for.”