Senior outside hitter's college career stays close to home

Junior outside hitter Taylor Robertson spikes the ball over the net Oct. 14, 2016 in McGuirk Arena.

Denise and Scott Robertson wanted something to share with their children they both loved throughout their lives: sports.

Redshirt senior Taylor Robertson, now in her fifth season as an outside hitter on the Central Michigan volleyball team, benefited greatly from her parent’s athletic aptitude. 

“It was very natural for us to make sure we introduced Taylor and her brother Satchel at a young age,” Denise said. “We really wanted to expose them to all kinds of sports to see what they personally liked.”

Taylor sparked on interest in volleyball after watching only one match while in middle school.

“I saw a volleyball game on ESPN when I was in the seventh grade,” Taylor said. “It looked like so much fun. It was a sport where I was like ‘OK, I can jump. My parents gave me those genes.’”

After watching that match, Taylor passed on playing basketball, soccer and track to pursue her love for volleyball, a decision that made her parents — both former basketball players at Roberts Wesleyan College — realize their sport was not in her future.

“She didn’t have the natural instinct in basketball we thought she would have,” Denise said. “One of our friends suggested having her try volleyball, and it clicked for her. We realized we had to learn the game of volleyball, because we knew nothing about volleyball.”

Taylor’s love and talent for the game led to multiple colleges recruiting the Midland native. CMU was the first school to recruit Taylor during her sophomore season. 

CMU proved to be an ideal place for Taylor, who enjoys being close to home. Committing one year before signing her letter of intent was something that surprised Denise and Scott, especially when other colleges began to show interest.

“As (Taylor’s senior) year progressed, she began to draw attention from other schools, some as far as the west coast” Denise said. “The only way she could do any official visits for some of the schools was to de-commit.”

Taylor graduated from Midland High School in December 2012, allowing her to greyshirt and enroll in classes for the 2013 winter semester. Despite her parents help, Taylor described her first semester as “a rude awakening.”

“My parents like to say my dad liked the athlete aspect and my mom was more dedicated to the academic side,” Taylor said. “I always liked school, but trying to manage the two to marry them and keep them separate was the hard part for me.”

Taylor missed time during the 2016 season with a torn posterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. The adjustment from playing to watching on the bench proved to be difficult. Taylor was in treatment while her teammates went on with their daily routine.

“It felt like I was lost in the background a bit,” Taylor said. “Once I got back in the spring season, I did a good job of making my presence a part of the team again.”

Denise reminded Taylor the injury was out of her control, and a new identity with the team was needed in the meantime.

“Everyone on that team has a very special and unique role. You have to embrace it,” Denise said. “You can’t contribute on the court, but you can contribute just as much from the sideline.”

Now into her fifth season on the team Taylor has embraced a unique role: team grandma.

“I feel that I have good leadership skills, especially outside the court,” Taylor said. “People are always coming to me with problems. I’ve been here for so long and been part of so many team dynamics and coaching staffs.”

Head coach Mike Gawlik understands Taylor’s role as “team grandma,” but also sees Taylor’s experience in a different perspective. 

“It feels like she’s a woman playing amongst girls,” he said. “We look for that experience to come out in the way she plays.”