Volleyball: New transfer finds acceptance in weekend sweeps


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Sophomore Taylor Tashima sets up a teammate. Tashima has already totaled 487 assists on the season as the Cats are out to a fast start.

Max Gelman, Assistant Sports Editor

Questions about finding new middle hitters surrounded Northwestern this offseason, but it seems to have found at least one answer in Sofia Lavin.

When Lavin, a junior transfer from the University of San Diego, first joined the Wildcats, she was uncertain how she would be accepted by the rest of her teammates. Lavin felt she was essentially two years behind her teammates in terms of learning coach Keylor Chan’s system and building team chemistry.

“I was really scared about coming on to the new team,” Lavin said. “Just coming from outside, not being able to mesh with people.”

The departures of seniors Katie Dutchman, Monica McGreal and Yewande Akanbi left a void in NU’s front row. But Lavin led the Cats in kills over the weekend in two 3-0 wins over Rutgers and Maryland. Her 22 kills were more than hitters Symone Abbott, Kayla Morin and Maddie Slater each converted.

If these early results are any indication, Lavin won’t have to worry about not fitting in.

“I love having her in the lineup now; she’s a great asset to our team,” sophomore setter Taylor Tashima said after Saturday’s win. “She brings that mentality, that aggressive mentality in the offense, and we need that. You can’t win against teams in the Big Ten if you’re not willing to go up and swing and take chances, and I think she’s done a really great job with that.”

Tashima is no slouch on offense either. After emerging as the focal point of NU’s strategy in her freshman season last year, Tashima sits fourth in the conference in assists per set at 11.33 after adding 68 in the two games against the two most recent Big Ten additions.

Lavin has not only made an impression on her setter, but also her coach. Chan seemed extremely pleased that Lavin made the decision to come to the Cats.

“She’s grown up with the game her whole life in Southern California,” Chan said. “[Lavin is] that kid that everyone wants on their team, that fights and fights and fights to get where she wants to be.”

With the Big Ten schedule just beginning, the games won’t be getting any easier for NU. Last season, the Cats won three of their first four conference games before losing six straight games and 13 of their last 16 overall.

However, Chan liked what he saw this weekend against the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins.

“Any time you can go on the road in the Big Ten or travel [anywhere], it’s tough,” Chan said. “I’m proud that our team really played hard and really showed a lot of improvement from Friday night to Saturday night.”

Even though Chan was happy with the results from this weekend, he mentioned that some mistakes still need to be addressed.

As for Lavin, she’s just happy that her transition to a larger school and Power 5 volleyball team has gone smoothly.

“These girls were so accepting and took me in as one of their own,” Lavin said. “I feel like I’ve been here the whole time.”

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