Volleyball: Wildcats split trip to Hoosier State
October 1, 2012
In any sport, consistency is the key to success. But after four Big Ten matches, Northwestern is still searching for it.
“We tend to give up runs in the middle of big sets and that’s something were really focusing on and trying to get better with every set,” senior setter Madalyn Shalter said.
The Wildcats (12-3, 1-3 Big Ten) let numerous leads slip away over the weekend, falling to No. 12 Purdue (13-2, 4-0) and beating Indiana (8-8, 0-4) by identical 3-1 scores.
“We played some very good volleyball but just couldn’t string enough good volleyball together against Purdue,” coach Keylor Chan said. “Against Indiana we were able to figure some things out and that made a difference.”
Early on in the first set against the Boilermakers, the Cats made a statement by jumping out to a 10-5 lead. However, they would relinquish the lead and drop the set 25-18 after a 7-2 run eliminated NU’s lead. The Cats would go on to jump out to early leads in the second and third set, but could only hold the lead in the third set before dropping a close fourth set 25-22.
The Cats' troubles seemed to be continuing the next night against an Indiana squad NU had defeated six consecutive times. The team made eight attacking errors in a 25-23 loss in the first set. However, with impressive performances from junior outside hitter Stephanie Holthus (who had 21 kills, a .514 attack percentage, and 12 digs in the match) and sophomore middle blocker Katie Dutchman, the Cats dominated sets two and three while holding off a late 4-0 Hoosier run to win the fourth set 25-23.
“I think we're definitely working on minimizing the runs of the other teams,” said sophomore outside hitter Monica McGreal, noting that doing so would allow NU to compete with any team. “That’s going to be one of our big focuses moving forward."
Even with the Cats giving up major runs to other teams, NU enjoyed several positive moments over the weekend. One such moment came in the loss to Purdue, when Shalter had 13 assists in the third set to move into the top-10 in NU history with 1,870 assists all time. She is also currently second in the Big Ten in assists per set with 11.61.
But in general, Chan and his players were pleased with the team's performance in terms of development.
“Overall I thought that the team continued to improve this weekend, which is something that we were looking for,” Chan said.
The highlight of the weekend was the Cats' victory over Indiana on Saturday. On top of providing NU a much needed confidence boost heading into the remainder of its regular season matches, the win also gave the Cats their first Big Ten win of the season and first conference win since their 11-0 winning streak was snapped last weekend against Wisconsin (13-4, 1-3). In a conference like the Big Ten — where seven of the 12 teams are ranked top-25 in the nation — picking up a road win is that much more important.
“In the Big Ten you got to split on the road, and when you're at home you have to defend home court,” Chan said. “We didn’t do that last weekend so getting a split on the road is a step in the right direction for us."