It’s in the genes: Tara Routliffe


Saluki freshman defensive specialist Tara Routliffe poses with a volleyball. (Daily Egyptian file photo)

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

When siblings play together growing up, things can get heated and competition becomes a normality.

Freshman volleyball player Tara Routliffe and her two sisters were born within four years of each other — Erin Routliffe, 20, Tara, 18, and Tess Routliffe, 16. All three are living successful athletic careers.

Erin, a junior at University of Alabama, is on a tennis scholarship and has won two straight NCAA Championships with her doubles partner, Maya Jensen. Tara, a defensive specialist, has played in 36 of the 37 sets this year for the Salukis and has 76 digs and six service aces. Tess, a Paralympian swimmer for team Canada, participated in the Parapan American Games in Toronto this summer, winning four gold medals and a silver.



The three originally played tennis together and competition between the sisters pushed them to be better. Off the tennis court, the sisters played their own style of baseball in their backyard. 

“We used tennis rackets instead of bats — because we couldn’t hit with bats — it was the most competitive thing in the world,” Tara said. “There were times where all we did was fight and argue.”

Once Erin consistently beat her younger sisters in tennis, Tara and Tess considered other sports. They tried soccer, basketball, running and horseback riding but ended up in volleyball and swimming, respectively.

“We’ve all been pretty athletic,” Erin said. “Since I’m the oldest, I think I pushed them to do their best in their sports.”

The eldest Routliffe and Jensen qualified for the U.S. Open this year but lost in the first round to the No. 6 duo, Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears by a final score of 6-2, 6-1.

Before SIU, Tara was the captain of both her secondary school team and her club team, the Halton Hurricanes.

“Seeing how close the girls on the team were really drew me to SIU,” Routliffe said. “I’m happy to be getting court time, I wasn’t exactly expecting this much.”

Tess is currently a senior at Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon, Ontario. She began swimming three years ago and quickly excelled in her sport.  She said her best event is the individual medley, consisting of all four strokes. Tess said she plans to train at the Canadian Sports Center in Montreal and represent her country in competition. 

“Everything we did growing up was to beat our sisters,” Tess said. “But we’re very supportive and I think it made us better.”

The three are living on a 1,225-mile stretch from Caledon, Ontario, to Carbondale, to Tuscaloosa, Ala. 

Tara said the separation is good for the sisters. 

“So far it’s been a nice break from each other,” Routliffe said. “We’re pretty competitive and we fight all the time.”

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @EvanJones_DE