By Chuck Walsh, Deputy Director of Sports Information
As long as Taylor Roberts can remember, volleyball has been in her blood. Literally.
Though she actually began playing the sport when she was eight years old, she is thought to have taken her first steps on a volleyball court with a volleyball in her hands. With her mother, Sheila, her father, Jason, and her sister, Ashlyn, at her side.
For as long as she can remember, her mom was her coach, her sister was her teammate and her father was her biggest fan.
“I remember peppering with my sister on the sidelines at my mom’s high school games or begging my mom to join the high school girls at practice and crying so many times after being told that I could not play and that I had to shag balls,” said Roberts.
Roberts’ life-long love of volleyball has allowed her to become the student-athlete she is today as a junior at Florida State.
Athletically, Roberts has helped lead Florida State into the NCAA Tournament in each of her first two seasons as a Seminole. She was a consistent performer as a freshman and became a starter as a sophomore – a position in the lineup she expects to earn again in 2020. Roberts has led the Seminoles to 38 wins in her first two seasons including a win over No. 3 ranked Minnesota in the 2019 ACC Big Ten Challenge.
Academically, she was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District First-Team in 2019, to the ACC Academic Honor Roll in 2019 and 2020 and has earned Florida State President’s List Honors (for a perfect 4.0 GPA) four times. She enrolled in Florida State in the spring of 2018 and earned Dean’s List Honors when she should have been a senior in high school.
But her success at Florida State almost never happened.
Roberts enjoyed a successful junior season of high school that saw her earn an invitation to play with the USA Volleyball A1 National Training Team when she was just 15, to being named an AVCA Phenom at 16, to earning prep All-American Honorable Mention honors at 17 while she was a high school star at Sneads High School in Jackson County, Florida. As a prep star Roberts led Sneads to four consecutive State 1A Championships.
As a highly-recruited student-athlete, Roberts initially didn’t want to attend Florida State. Born in Tallahassee and having attended a high school that was just over 45 minutes from the Florida State campus, she initially thought of taking her volleyball talents elsewhere. Roberts visited only two schools — Florida State and Nebraska – and committed to Head Coach Chris Poole and the Seminoles prior to her senior season.
“It’s funny, because initially, Florida State was not my first choice,” said Roberts. “I had always imagined myself going to college farther away from home. But, as soon as I began visiting Florida State, I fell in love with the university. The coaches, staff, and team felt like a family and I wanted to be a part of that. It was also special to me that I had the opportunity to represent a university that so many people from my hometown support.”
The lure of playing at Florida State in front of her family and friends was the deciding factor in her choosing the Seminoles. It was a decision that began long before she became a sought after high school recruit.
Another facet of her career that made her decision to attend Florida State easy was that she attended the Seminole Volleyball Camp while growing into the sport. Her interest in Florida State was piqued when, as a camper, she was presented with the Hustle Award and rewarded with the opportunity to participate in a drill with the Seminoles.
Poole, the fourth winningest active head coach in Division I and the 12th winningest coach in NCAA Division I history, is constantly amazed by the energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail Roberts gives to every aspect of her life.
“I saw Taylor as a very young player in our summer volleyball camps,” said Poole. “I fell in love with her work habits, her hustle and her excitement to learn. She has always been one of our hardest workers; in the classroom, in the weight room and on the court. Tay is an amazing role model for our team as well as all young players.”
Roberts began playing for her mom when she was 11. A noted volleyball coach, her mom created a local volleyball club in Sneads called Club Zero Gravity.
“Being coached by my mom was awesome,” said Roberts “Usually, when you meet a new coach, you do your best to build a strong personal relationship with them. I benefited from the fact that I already had an amazing relationship with her. I knew her tendencies, and she knew mine. However, if I had a bad game or our team had a bad loss, I didn’t just hear about it at the gym…but on the car ride home…and at home for the next few days.”
Her career playing alongside her sister began when her competitive career began at age eight as members of the North Florida Volleyball Academy club team and continued for two seasons and two state championship teams at Sneads. Ashlyn, who is two years older than Taylor, played four seasons at South Alabama and completed her career in 2019.
“I was lucky to be able to play with Ashlyn because I learned a lot from her,” said Roberts. “She has always been a great leader and is very talented on the court. Much of the athlete I am now is because I spent all of those years playing with and watching her.”
"I fell in love with her work habits, her hustle and her excitement to learn. She has always been one of our hardest workers; in the classroom, in the weight room and on the court."SEMINOLE HEAD COACH CHRIS POOLE
The two sisters have maintained an incredibly close relationship throughout their careers.
“I do miss playing with my sister,” said Roberts. “However, I have enjoyed the opportunity to blaze my own path with a new team. I have been able to be my own leader and form awesome sister-like relationships with other teammates.”
The sisters communicate every day now that Ashlyn graduated and moved back to Tallahassee. Ashlyn is currently a teacher and is the junior varsity volleyball coach at Florida High in Tallahassee. She is also a coach at the Tallahassee Volleyball Academy, where their mom is now the director.
Taylor and Ashlyn competed against each other twice as collegians, both in scrimmages won by the Seminoles.
“I had the chance to play my sister twice during my freshman season,” said Taylor. We (Florida State) won both times…but she (Ashlyn) did great!”
It was at the Seminoles vs. Jaguars match at Florida State that the family was careful not to choose sides while they were rooting for players wearing the same uniform number (one) and playing the same position (libero).
“My family did in fact sit in the middle of the bleachers,” Taylor said. “I believe my mother wore a South Alabama shirt and my dad wore a Florida State one. They did their best to make sure we were both supported.”
Roberts, who is working towards her degree in Social Work which she hopes to turn into a job as a clinical social worker when she graduates, is one of the Seminoles’ most respected players.
“Taylor brings focus and fun into everything she does,” said redshirt freshman Loren Scott. “She loves competition and the game, and this energy brings everyone on the team along with her.”
As a leader on an upperclassmen dominated squad, Roberts is looking to take advantage of the opportunities presented to her as a student-athlete at Florida State leading up to her graduation in 2022.
“I hope to become even more involved with Florida State on and off the court during the remainder of my career,” said Roberts. “Off the court, I am now a SAAC member and have found my sweet-spot with pursuing a Social Work degree. I hope to serve the community more, increase my networking, and use my voice to represent athletes. On the court, I hope to play an even bigger role on our team. Now that I am an upperclassman, I hope to have a larger leadership role with my attitude, performance, and voice.
Roberts and her family believe in hard work and value their time together.
“My family and I have always valued hard work in everything that we do,” said Roberts. “I am rooted deeply in my faith, and that pushes me to be the best version of myself possible.”
For Roberts, her family, her faith and volleyball will certainly carry her forward to being successful in anything, and everything, she chooses to be great at.
"My family and I have always valued hard work in everything that we do,” said Roberts. “I am rooted deeply in my faith, and that pushes me to be the best version of myself possible.”FLORIDA STATE JUNIOR TAYLOR ROBERTS