Volleyball: Northwestern to continue using 6-2 lineup against Illinois


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern has altered its conventional lineup in recent matches, inserting Taylor Tashima as a second setter. Entering their game against Illinois on Wednesday, the Wildcats have lost seven of eight games.

Max Gelman, Reporter


Freshman Taylor Tashima appears to have cemented herself as the centerpiece of Northwestern’s game plan.

Beginning with NU’s Oct. 24 loss to Purdue, coach Keylor Chan and the Wildcats have implemented a lineup change consisting of two setters. The adjustment has opened up the opportunity for Tashima to hit as well as set.

“It definitely gives me more room to attack the ball with (sophomore) Caleigh (Ryan) setting,” explained Tashima, who has 41 kills and 93 assists since Chan made the change. “You know, it gives the other team more hitters to look at too, which kind of balances our offense more.”

Although Tashima was mainly a setter in high school, she has managed to adapt well to the new lineup.

“For my freshman, sophomore, and junior years on (my club team) I set and hit,” Tashima continued. “It’s nothing really different for me. I’m used to it, I’ve been practicing setting and hitting, so it’s made the transition a lot easier.”

Even though NU has lost three of the four matches in which the team has utilized the new six-two lineup, they have played some of their best volleyball of the season, taking both No. 13 Purdue and Indiana to five sets. This begs the question: Is the lineup here to stay for the remainder of the season?

“We’re hopeful it does,” Chan said. “You keep on evaluating, but right now it seems to be something that we’ve had some solid success with. We’re working out some of the technical issues of changing systems in the middle of the year.”

The new lineup has benefited Tashima and the team as a whole, but some of the older players such as senior Yewande Akanbi have seen their playing time greatly reduced over the past four games. Akanbi has not registered a single kill and has only played a total of two sets during that span, both of which came against Michigan State last Saturday.

“Yewande is still very important to our team and our development,” elaborated Chan. “I just think that right now, at this moment, this is kind of the system that’s best for us, but everyone knows they have an opportunity to compete for a spot.”

Chan and the Cats will look to carry on the success of the six-two this week when they play a home-and-home series against No. 9 Illinois, starting Wednesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The series carries a bit of a rivalry feel, as the Illini are the only other in-state program in the Big Ten.

“It’s a big match,” Chan said. “Obviously (Illinois) is a rival of ours, and they’re a team that’s playing great volleyball right now, so I think there’s a lot for us to be playing for with a lot on the line.”

Senior Savannah Paffen agreed with Chan, adding, “We play them twice in one week, so depending on the outcome of the first game, either if we win or lose, is going to provide more fire for the second.”

When asked if there was any extra pressure on the team playing against its third top-10 opponent this season, Paffen dismissed the notion. “I think we try to not focus on their ranking because lots of teams in the Big Ten are ranked,” she said. “If we focus too much on the rankings we kind of get intimidated or nervous or anxious, so it’s better if we just don’t think about that.”

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