1st Big Ten win served up (Volleyball)

Nick Halpern

There is one thing the Northwestern volleyball team has battled consistently so far this season: inconsistency.

At times they have played brilliantly. But too often, they have lapsed into lulls that cost them games.

Against Ohio State (7-7, 1-5 Big Ten) on Friday night, NU (11-7, 2-4) was able to overcome sloppy play and win a five-game thriller 3-2 (30-24, 19-30, 30-27, 33-35, 15-12).

The Wildcats opened up a big lead in the first game behind Iwona Lodzik’s strong serving, but let Ohio State come back in the next game. NU went on to lose the second game by 11 points.

Coach Keylor Chan was at a loss in explaining his team’s shotty play.

“It gets worse the more we talk about it,” Chan said. “We need to address our problem of not playing with emotion and fire.”

After halftime, NU came out with more of the passion Chan wanted, winning two of three games behind a strong performance from Erika Lange. She said the team realized it had to “bring it” after an uninspired second game.

“We got the win, that’s the most important thing, and we battled,” Chan said. “We didn’t look sharp and we didn’t play with a lot of emotion. Every Big Ten team is good — Ohio State battled and we have to give them credit.”

For the Cats to join the big guns of the conference, they will have to duke it out with teams such as No. 11 Penn State (16-2, 5-1), who they met on Saturday. NU could have moved to 3-3 in the Big Ten with a victory and put itself in position for a possible conference title run.

But the Cats fell short, dropping the contest 3-1 (29-31, 30-24, 22-30, 27-30). Initially, it seemed NU was on a clear path to victory, jumping on Penn State for a 9-0 lead. But the Lady Lions, coming off their first Big Ten loss the night before, rallied to take the first game.

“They weren’t playing well, and we picked up on an execution problem they were having,” Chan said. “Lizzie (Carlson) was serving well, but they fixed (their problem) and battled back. We blew a couple of chances.”

The Cats made a brief run at the match by winning the second game, but the highly touted Lady Lions proved to be too much in the end.

Although the team’s up-and-down play is baffling right now, Chan said he knows there is an end in sight.

“We can be a great team when we address our inconsistency,” he said. “We want to realize our expectations, and we need to deal with the pressures of expectation.”