Cats keep tournament hopes alive (Volleyball)

Nick Halpern

The fate of the Northwestern volleyball team’s postseason hopes hinged greatly on Friday night’s game against No. 23 Wisconsin (18-9, 10-6).

They could either fall to two games below .500 in the Big Ten or pull back even. More importantly, the Wildcats could break even by beating a Top 25 team — a win that would further attract the attention of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

The Cats (17-11, 8-8 Big Ten) responded to the challenge in a big way, overcoming a shaky start to beat the Badgers in four games (24-30, 30-23, 35-33, 30-26).

Wisconsin came out smoking in the first game, hitting a blistering .438 as a team against a flat NU squad. The Badgers looked sharper on defense, and the Cats weren’t able to string together any substantial runs.

Heading into the second game, it appeared as though NU was destined for a long night.

But the Cats were able to overcome a bad first game by opening up a big lead at the outset of the second game. The Cats held the lead for most of the second game to even up the match

The third game was the most exciting of the match, as NU blew a six-point lead to fall behind 29-26. But the Cats were able to tie the game at 29 and eventually pull out a victory behind the serving of Lauren Greenwood.

“The difference for us in the match was coming back to win game three,” head coach Keylor Chan said. “It was a big momentum swing for us.”

NU never trailed in the fourth game as they secured the upset victory.

The Cats were led by Erika Lange, Christie Gardner, and Leah Delcourt. Lange had 16 kills while hitting over .400, and Gardner won four straight service points for NU in the second game. Gardner also notched five kills to help the Cats bounce back after the lackluster first game.

Delcourt has emerged just as the Cats have broken out of their early-season funk, and her play seems to mirror the success of the team.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We knew we needed to win to have a shot at the postseason,” Chan said.

NU’s last three matches have been against nationally ranked teams, and the Cats have won two of them.

The road will get a little easier for the Cats this weekend, as they travel to play Purdue and Indiana. NU has already swept both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers earlier this season.

But the importance of the win over Wisconsin was not lost on Chan.

“It was great to get another win over a ranked opponent,” said Chan. “I’m proud of my kids and it was a good team effort.”