By Grace Bain
Taylor McMorrow has a lot of friends. She finds support from her soccer teammates and her sisters in the Alpha Phi sorority at the University of Southern California.
And then there is her competitive spirit.
It was Taylor’s ambition, one she has maintained since she began playing sports at age 5, that eventually led her to the USC Trojans women’s soccer team.
But then a knee injury threatened everything.
“I’ve always admired how much Taylor cares about everyone around her and how she makes a consistent effort to bring her energy to every situation. Even though she was out for a while from her injury, she has continued to always bring a positive and cheerful energy everyday to trainings,” said Ashley Soto, a fellow teammate of Taylor’s.
Throughout her college career, Taylor has efficiently managed a busy schedule, finding a balance among athletic, academic and social activities.
In her sorority, Taylor has taken up a leadership position as Internal Social Chair. She plans the Greek organization’s internal events, including invites and date dashes.
“She balances her crazy soccer schedule so well and still manages to be involved in leadership at Alpha Phi. Despite her busy schedule, she’s always a great and supportive friend,” said Lindsay Roth, the sorority president and a close friend.
Taylor said that keeping a busy schedule actually motivates her. It helps her, she said, get school work done for her business major and communications minor. During her sophomore and junior years, Taylor earned an honorable mention as a PAC-12 All-Academic scholar for her educational success.
On the USC team, Taylor, a forward, appeared in 22 games her freshman season, in 2016, scoring twice. Her sophomore year, she played in 11 games, recording two shots on goal for a career-high in a game against Oregon. She played 11 games her junior year as well.
During a spring practice game in Las Vegas against BYU her junior year, however, Taylor faced a major setback.
Blindsided by one of the opponent players crashing into her unbraced body, Taylor felt her knee wobble back and forth. Then she felt a pop.
After hitting the ground for only a couple seconds, Taylor quickly picked herself back up. As the play resumed, Taylor’s knee gave way after a teammate passed her the ball.
She crawled off the field.
Then she cried, but not necessarily from pain.
Taylor cried because she was unsure what exactly had happened. She wasn’t sure how serious the injury was. She also knew – she thought this immediately – that coach Keidane McAlpine wasn’t one to allow his players to play in the fall season if they didn’t play in the spring.
After the BYU game, Taylor had to sit and watch her team play another game against Utah from the sidelines. That night, she walked over a mile, back to the locker room with the team, to pack up and drive back to Los Angeles.
“I never really questioned if I would play soccer again,” she says now.
“I questioned whether I was going to heal. Every time you injure yourself, you always think you’re never going to be the same as you were. I didn’t think I would never play soccer again. I just didn’t know when I was going to play again.”
Upon her arrival back in Los Angeles, Taylor’s parents, Andrea McMorrow, 54, and John McMorrow, 55, of Newport Coast, rushed Taylor to a clinic, where a doctor told her an MRI suggested no significant damage.
Over the next two days, though, Taylor’s pain got worse.
“When I would sit down to go to the bathroom,” she said, “my whole knee cap would lock in and out. It would shift around and be really painful.”
Taylor spoke with a trainer, who further tried to convince her she was fine. A follow-up doctor’s appointment revealed otherwise.
When the doctor told Taylor she had completely torn her MCL, using the words “off the bone,” in his description, Taylor was so shocked she fainted, right there in the office. The doctors and trainers present picked her limp body up and placed it on the patient chair, frantically and ironically screaming at her to breathe.
Once her nerves returned, Taylor learned that she would not need surgery but, rather, have to go through intense physical rehabilitation.
Taylor was determined to play her final year.
This was her competitive spirit.
“I looked at what I can control,” she said. “I control what I do on the field. I can control my attitude. I can control how hard I work in practice. As long as I’m doing those things, I know I can out-compete the people I’m playing with.”
While Taylor was more than eager to return to the game as soon as possible, recovery wasn’t always as quick as she hoped. Doctors told her it would only take a month or so to run again.
In reality, it took over two months.
Nevertheless, her strength and motivation to improve did not go unnoticed by her friends, teammates and, of course, coaches.
“When Taylor got hurt, she definitely took it the best way,” said Sam Bruder, one of Taylor’s USC teammates and colleagues of 10 years. Bruder first met and became close with Taylor on the Olympic Development Program before both deciding to join USC’s team. “She was very upset at first but knew what she had to do to come back stronger. She always was doing rehab and when she wasn’t she took a role as a supporter for the team.”
On June 4, Taylor returned to the field to play in her first game since her knee injury. Taylor became a sort of comeback royalty. During her senior season, she has scored a goal against Northern Arizona and recorded an assist against Seattle.
As her season winds down, Taylor – saying she has no aspirations to go pro, citing what she calls mistreatment of female athletes in the industry – also said she has every intention of being with the USC Trojans women’s soccer team to the end. At 12-3-1, 5-3-0 Pac-12, a conference championship is perhaps within reach.
Of course, she still has made time for her friends.
“Taylor is the type of friend everyone should have in life– someone who is loyal and always has your back while also being completely authentic 100% of the time. She is who she is all the time and never changes for anyone,” said Bruder.
“I’m going to miss having her next year. She really has become my go to person,” said Soto.