Volleyball: Tashima setting up for a bright future
Taylor Tashima (12) goes up for a block while playing for the U.S. Youth National Volleyball Team at the NORCECA Girls’ Youth Continental Championship, in Tijuana, Mexico, this summer. | Photo courtesy NORCECA
to watchTaylor Louis ,
Niles North, jr., outside hitter.
Olivia Rusek ,
Niles West, jr., outside hitter.
Brittani Steinberg ,
New Trier, sr., outside hitter.
Anna Pontarelli ,
Loyola, sr., outside hitter.
Kate Gebultowicz ,
Maine East, sr., setter.
Additional players to watch
Arianna Salas, Evanston, sr., setter.
Patricia Hare, Glenbrook North, sr., hitter.
Teigan Flaws, Glenbrook South, sr., hitter.
Pat Wardynski, Maine South, sr., hitter.
Paige Jendrisak, North Shore Country Day, sr., hitter.
Erin French, Regina, jr., libero.
Updated: September 24, 2012 7:40AM
WINNETKA — Dressed in USA Volleyball apparel, Taylor Tashima and her teammates on the United States’ Youth National Team were approached by several people in the San Diego International Airport and asked a similar question as they waited to leave for Mexico.
“We had a good 15 people come up to us and say, ‘Are you going to London?’” said Tashima, a junior at New Trier. “A lot of them asked to get pictures with us.”
Flattered, Tashima and her teammates responded by explaining they were bound for Tijuana for the NORCECA Girls’ Youth Continental Championship.
The attention brought by representing the United States didn’t wane in Tashima’s time in Mexico, but it was never again a case of mistaken identity. The United States dominated the NORCECA Youth Continental Championship, dropping only two sets in five matches en route to the gold medal.
Tashima, a 15-year-old Wilmette resident, bonded with the team’s hitters and was the maestro of the United States’ powerful attack. Tashima was named the tournament’s best setter after the gold medal match. Both during the tournament and after its conclusion, Tashima was approached and asked for her autograph.
Beyond just increased attention and a higher level of play, Tashima’s experience in Mexico and playing for the United States in the European Global Challenge in Croatia earlier this summer – Tashima’s team finished fourth – is something she believes will positively effect her in the upcoming high school season.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to be able to put on the jersey and represent our country,” Tashima said. “It brought a new level of focus because when you’re representing your country, you’re representing all of the players who play volleyball and you’re showing the other countries how you play. Coming back to high school, even if it’s not the same intensity of play, I still need to bring that because it will help us win games and get past rough points.”
Tashima returned from Mexico on Aug. 12, and went to her first New Trier volleyball practice the following morning. Once there, Trevians coach Hannah Hsieh could see her improvement.
Tashima is playing with increased confidence and is setting better, according to Hsieh. While the on-the-court effects of playing for the United States’ Youth National Team are evident, Hsieh believes the experience Tashima amassed this summer is likely to help her in two years when she is scheduled to begin playing for Northwestern.
“Having that experience of playing at such a high level, with players who are as skilled at their positions as she is at hers, I think that’s going to help her; not only with confidence, but with the level she’s capable of playing at,” Hsieh said. “The fact that she was able to run that offense with the Youth National Team, I think it will give her a load of confidence to know that she can do it at the next level.”
By winning a gold medal in Mexico, the Youth National Team qualified for the FIVB Youth World Championships in Thailand next September. Tashima plans on trying out for that team.
After proving herself as the captain of the United States’ gold medal team in Mexico, her dream of being an Olympic setter seems a bit more attainable now.
While conceding that it’s very difficult to predict the future of a 15-year-old, Youth National Team coach Reed Sunahara was impressed with Tashima’s play and leadership in Mexico.
The key to earning a spot on the national team “is how much you want it, how much time you’re willing to put into it and you’ve got to have a couple breaks here and there,” Sunahara said. “Most importantly, it’s up to the kid and what she wants. If Taylor wants it, it opens a whole new ballgame and I think the sky’s the limit.”