Milk and Honey interviews volleyball star Taylor on her role models, faith in Jesus, and her love story!

Playing for Christ

Julia Ismail

Disney's hit movie Brave follows the adventurous Merida - a young, courageous princess - as she carves her authentic path in life and follows her destiny.

Princess Merida reminds me a lot of my friend Taylor. She's beautiful, confident, and has hair peculiarly similar to her - which is no mistake.

Taylor was used as the model at the Disney studios to create Merida’s digitized hair. They wanted Taylor's long, luscious, flowing hair to be duplicated perfectly for their princess.

But this fun fact does no justice to the radiant, whimsical woman known as Taylor Racich. One of my best friends, I usually bump into her riding her roller blades along the beaches of Malibu as the sun sets with a mile-long smile and golden hair blowing in the wind.

Pepperdine’s All-American volleyball player, Taylor Racich, is making waves on-and-off the court for her stand-out faith in Christ and talent as a top athlete. There is nothing like watching Taylor play because it is watching one of God’s children do what they were created to do. Taylor can simultaneously play the best game of her life, while laughing, smiling, and joking with her beach volleyball partner, Heidi Dyer, and all for the glory of God. 

Her personality is one of unmatchable brilliance. Her laugh is contagious, her spirit is energized, free and overflowing with Christ’s love, her soul is rich, and her embrace warm. Meet this gem of a gal who opens up about faith, volleyball, and her fellow-athlete boyfriend, Evan!Milk and Honey interviews volleyball star Taylor on her role models, faith in Jesus, and her love story!

Favorite Bible verse?

Ohhh it changes! Hmm… My favorite one right now is: Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

I’m in a transition stage out of college and on summer break, and it reminds me to continue to seek him as things change with a new daily routine. Since I don’t have convocation at Pepperdine, house group, and other faith-based activities, it’s easier to fall out with my faith. This verse keeps me rooted and I ask myself, “When do I find that time to be with God, Taylor?” I’m living in Santa Barbara right now with my 4 siblings and everyone has their own schedule. It reminds me that I need to take care of me by focusing on Him.

Do you have a morning ritual?

I’ve learned from people like Heather, a roommate at UCLA’s week-long FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) all-sports camp. Heather woke up at 4:30 a.m. to read the Bible, and then by 5:30 a.m. she worked out all on her own before heading out to coach basketball, worship, mentor and have Bible study with a group of high school girls. 

I learned from people like Heather. In college, I made my own “prayer corner” in my room. I put up inspirational quotes, a 'Wonderfully Made' flyer saying “You are loved,” and pictures of athletes. I had a picture of Tim Tebow with one of his favorite quotes, “I don’t know what what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future.” Tim is #15 and so am I for volleyball. I always looked up to him as a Christian athlete. 

Alongside Tim, there was a picture of Bethany Hamilton and her story. 

I also put a picture of myself, mid-action shot on the volleyball court with one of my favorite bible verses from Matthew 16:24: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

This inspires me to make God a priority and have the discipline to wake up and go to Him first.

Sports role model?

I’ve always been drawn to Tim Tebow. I heard him speak at a Pepperdine event about why he plays football, and I was absolutely blown away, thinking to myself, “WOW, that’s why I play.”

In college, he was a Heisman Trophy Award Winner. He was SUPER bold in his faith and put verses under his eyes (which they later banned because of him). I respect him for being himself and not being afraid to show the world who we live for.

Describe being on the court in one word.

HAPPY. I played this morning on the beach, and I still get that same feeling of joy. I love talking and having fun while simultaneously being SUPER intense on the court. I am so grateful for the training and quality of coaches at Pepperdine. It was extremely tough, but because of it I don’t have to focus so much on technique now. It frees me to talk and make jokes on the court.

Milk and Honey interviews volleyball star Taylor on her role models, faith in Jesus, and her love story!

Beach or indoor volleyball?

BEACH, although I’ll be playing Indoor at Lipscomb University in Nashville this Fall 2016 during my first year of my Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) Program. 

How much is faith a part of your team?

The only thing that matters is your FAITH. I interned for an FCA volleyball camp and for the first time in my life I met people that LOVED volleyball, but loved GOD first. 

I learned from a girl named Reagan during my FCA summer internship to write verses on my hand with whatever God had spoken to me that morning. It keeps me grounded in truth. I love to write on my wrists names of people I want to dedicate my game to that day.

Milk and Honey interviews volleyball star Taylor on her role models, faith in Jesus, and her love story!

Do you think that volleyball is part of your destiny? 

Now that I am out of college and STILL playing volleyball everyday, it is always going to be part of my life. Next season’s indoor team is going to be very special. I pray God will continue to use me in my sport to help other girls in their walk. 

Congrats on recently being awarded AVCA’s All-American with your partner, Heidi!

I was surprised! And so HUMBLED, thinking "no way, I don’t deserve this!" It’s always hard to get an award because you feel like everyone on the team should get it. This is a culmination of all of them. They make me better every day; they push me at every practice. This is because of every girl on that team. We won because they were so strong. 

I’ve enjoyed this season so much having Heidi as my partner. Our coach would always tell Heidi and I, “I trust in whatever you do. You just do it.” She could see a bond with us and trusted it. I would thinking to myself, “IT IS JESUS!”

What gives you the mental toughness to play?

Freshman year of college, we played in Alabama for the National Championships and lost. We were playing against Long Beach State. Everyone crowded our court and there were cameras and a television crew filming. There was SO much pressure. It was so new, we lost and were devastated. I felt like it was all on me. I told my team apologetically, “It was all my fault.” My team reassured me, “No! We all did it, it’s a team sport.” 

Over the years the mental toughness GROWS. You get used to it because you’ve been there before. Off-season training prepares us best mentally: the conditioning workouts, strength training, & bike workouts.  This year, a teammate came up to me apologizing when she lost her match, saying it was all her fault. I saw myself in her. I told her, “We win and lose as a team. Do not even worry about it!” 

Milk and Honey interviews volleyball star Taylor on her role models, faith in Jesus, and her love story!

Can you share your love story with Evan, your loving + supportive perfect match of a boyfriend?

Evan was a freshman playing on the men’s volleyball team at Pepperdine under the famous Coach Marv Dunphy. I was a senior in high school and met him during my official trip to visit Pepperdine. The men’s and women’s volleyball teams went out to dinner on a Friday night. We were sitting at different tables that night, but before we left he asked me how I was doing. 

The next day the men’s team had a game and we went to cheer them on, and that night we headed to Malibu Inn, a classic and world-famous restaurant/bar. I was dancing with the girls on my (future) team. Evan came over, cut in and we started laughing, being silly, and jumping on the couch. From then on, we became friends.

I came to Pepperdine and he remembered me! He asked me out my freshman year, but I told him since I was just starting college, everything was so new and happening so fast, I couldn’t date right now, that it wasn’t the right time. And, he waited for me.

I went to Lausanne, Switzerland to study abroad that summer and in the Fall when I came back, we hung out ALL the time.

He asked me on November 18, 2013 and I said YES! I had adjusted, and I was ready. 

Do you and Evan go on active dates since you are both athletes?

Active Dates? YES!!! We did Pepperdine Family Camp together. We went hiking before counseling. Or surf some mornings. Or on runs, but he kicks my butt up the hill! (* insert laughs). We do everything together. Surfing. Mountain biking. We are ALWAYS active together. We are going on Pepperdine’s Iceland trip together where we will hike 8 miles a day!!!

Who is your biggest cheerleader on-and-off the court?

This is SO hard!!! Before college and during: my twin sister, mom, God mother, and grandmother. They are amazing! My mom always said, “When I watch you, I never have to be nervous or worry!” During college, Evan was my biggest cheerleader even before we started dating. I would get really nervous before indoor games and he would encourage me so much, sending me Bible verses before games and always reminding me Who I was playing for. 

Next Fall, as Taylor plays her first game for Lipscomb University, she will open against her Alma Mater, Pepperdine U. Tune in online!