All-Area Girls Volleyball: Player of the Year and First Team
New Trier High School volleyball player Taylor Tashima is shown with some of her USA girls youth national team jerseys while at her home on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, in Wilmette. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 11:07PM
Behind the setting of 6-foot junior Taylor Tashima, New Trier reached the state championship for the first time since winning the state’s first title as New Trier East in 1974.
Tashima was already named the best setter at the NORCECA Youth Continental Championships in August while leading USA to the gold in Tijuana, Mexico. With the USA Youth National team, she placed fourth at the European Global Challenge in Croatia in July.
The Northwestern-bound Tashima had four kills and 32 assists in a 21-25, 25-22, 25-17 loss to defending Class 4A state champion Benet in the state final in Normal. She finished the season with 172 kills, 688 assists and a team-leading 76 aces.
How valuable have the experiences of playing in Mexico and Croatia been to you? “Playing overseas and in Mexico was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it was such an honor to put on the U.S.A. jersey and represent our country. It really opened my eyes to what international play is like. While we obviously play to win at the high school and club levels here in the U.S., the intensity of play is significantly notched-up when competing internationally. I was so fortunate to be able to travel and be exposed to the different cultures, while playing with some of the most talented and competitive players in the country. It’s been one of the highlights of my life.”
What are your chances of making the youth national team for the Thailand tournament (FIVB Youth World Championship) next season? “Even though I was selected for the team last year, I still have to go through the same tryout process again this year to earn a spot on the team. Nothing is a given. Next year’s tryouts are constantly at the forefront of my mind, motivating me to push myself on a daily basis to become a stronger and smarter player. Being the setter on next year’s U.S. Youth National Team and having the opportunity to compete for the world championship is a big goal of mine.”
What is the name and purpose of the non-profit organization you are involved with? “I’m a member of the junior board of the Hospice & Palliative Care Center, which is a program that tries to maximize the quality of life for people who are sick and in the last phase of their lives. The job of my board is to raise money for the hospice organization, so they can take care of their patients and their families.”
How long have you been with them and what do you like most about it? “I’ve been on the board for three years. I love knowing that I’m making a difference in people’s lives, whether it be through fundraising or by making gifts for the patients.”
What church do you attend and what do you like most about signing in its choir? “I go to Kenilworth Union Church. I’ve been singing in the choir since fourth grade, alongside my volleyball teammate, Haley Fauntleroy. It’s so much fun, and the choir is like a second family to me. The choir director, Lisa Bond, is an amazingly talented, kind, considerate, hard-working woman. She’s made it possible for Haley and me to continue singing despite our numerous weekend volleyball commitments, and she’s been unwaveringly supportive of my life both in the church and outside of it. She even came to watch our New Trier team win supersectionals this year. School and volleyball can get very intense, and singing in the choir provides a balance in my life.”
How long will it take for this memorable season to sink in? “I’ve gained more perspective on our 39-2 record-breaking season since getting home from state, and I couldn’t be prouder of our team. As soon as I stepped inside Redbird Arena, it really hit me how far we’d come. New Trier hadn’t made it into the final four for 37 years, and there we were on center court.
Our team’s motto this year was ‘All In’ because we knew it would take total commitment on everyone’s part in order to make it all the way to state. We worked extremely hard this season, had lots of fun along the way, and had more depth than any previous New Trier team I’ve been on.
Losing the championship match when we were so close was very hard to grasp because we wanted it so badly. However, we’re very proud of our second-place state finish and we’ll be stronger and wiser team next year when playoffs starts. If we give our 2013 season an ‘all-in’ effort like we did this year, I fully expect we’ll earn the opportunity to compete for that state championship again.”
Is there a particular highlight/event to the season that will be hard to forget? “I will always remember winning our semifinal game versus Mother McAuley. After beating them, it almost felt as if we had won the championship. We’ve believed in ourselves throughout the entire season, but upsetting the No. 2 seed proved to everyone that we could compete with the best.”
Once you started playing for Wildcat Jrs., was playing for Northwestern and coach Keylor Chan always a priority for you? “Joining the Wildcat Jrs. club team four years ago was my first introduction to Northwestern, its facilities and its coaching staff. However, when I first started receiving college questionnaires in the mail during freshman year, I wasn’t initially thinking about NU as one of my choices. I knew Northwestern was an amazing school, but the thought of going there never crossed my mind because it’s just three miles down the road from us.
When I heard that Keylor and his team were looking at me, I immediately became very interested because I have so much respect for him. They verbally offered me a scholarship during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, and I spent several months intensively narrowing down the schools I was interested in. The Wildcat Jrs. club director and coaches were instrumental in helping me contact college coaches and look at all my options.
Spending time on NU’s campus and meeting with both students and alumnae really opened my eyes to all the opportunities that Northwestern has to offer. I always knew that I wanted to play Big 10 volleyball and compete at the highest level while getting a great education. I can’t wait to put on a Wildcats uniform in another one-and-a-half years, and I’m so happy that my family will be able to come watch all my home games.”
What other schools did you consider? “I began with a list of about 30 names when I first started talking to colleges. I ultimately narrowed my choices down to approximately six to eight schools, including Michigan, Princeton, North Carolina and Michigan State.”
Few outside hitters at 5-foot-9 are able to make as big an impact as the North Carolina-Greensboro-bound Brezwyn, who led Hinsdale South (31-8) to another West Suburban Gold title. The senior had 411 kills, 178 digs, 25 aces and 48 blocks in her fourth varsity season. “She will be a terrific college player because her glass ceiling is so high,” Hornets coach Lisa Martinez said. “She will continue to get better with every year she plays.”
The Nazareth senior libero heads to North Dakota State next, but led the Roadrunners (23-12) to a regional title and was named all-tournament at Champaign Centennial and Bradley-Bourbonnais. She had 347 digs for an average of 4.6 per set and led her team in aces (29) and serving percentage. Milligan was a unanimous all-East Suburban Catholic pick.
Her 464 kills were a Lake Zurich record for a single season, which is remarkable for a middle hitter. Her 28 kills against Libertyville were a school record. She added 81 blocks, 149 digs and 75 aces. The 6-1 senior and Rhode Island recruit holds the school record for career aces (163) and finished second in kills (996). “She is the most complete offensive player I have coached,” Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello said. “She can get a kill from anywhere on the court.”
The CSL South Player of the Year was one-third of a deadly offensive combo for state runner-up New Trier (39-2) along with juniors Taylor Tashima and Haley Fauntleroy. The Yale-bound 5-11 senior outside hitter helped the Trevians return to their first state final since 1974 with a match-high 15 kills in the semifinals against Mother McAuley. She led the Trevians in kills (273) and was second in blocks (34).
See Player of the Year Q&A.
Libertyville (34-8) claimed another fourth-place trophy after taking fourth in 2007, but the senior libero did not go down without a fight against Mother McAuley with 20 digs in the third-place match. Webb ended the season with 773 digs and was credited with 45 digs in one match this season.
The Michigan-bound 6-0 setter ended her Libertyville career with a fourth-place trophy in Class 4A and became her school’s all-time assists leader (2,105) despite running a two-setter offense as a freshman. Zhou was named all-tournament at the Wheaton Classic. She finished her final season with 187 kills, 627 assists and 62 blocks.
— George M. Wilcox