NU’s tourney hopes take a hit in Hoosier State (Volleyball)

Nick Halpern

With the most grueling part of the schedule behind it, the Northwestern volleyball team (17-13, 8-10 Big Ten) seemed to be in good position to finish its season at or above .500 in the Big Ten.

The only remaining road contests were against conference pushovers Purdue (13-16, 6-12) and Indiana (12-17, 5-13). Both contests figured to be easy wins given the way the Wildcats were playing recently.

But someone forgot to tell that to the Boilermakers and Hoosiers.

On Friday night, the Cats weren’t able to match the intensity of Purdue, dropping a hard-fought match (19-30, 30-25, 27-30, 30-22, 16-18).

The first game was back-and-forth until Purdue broke it open, putting together runs of four and six points to turn a 13-13 tie into a commanding 27-17 advantage.

NU came storming back in Game Two, overcoming an early deficit to win 10 of the final 12 points to even the match 1-1.

But the Cats couldn’t keep their momentum, mustering an anemic .082 hitting percentage in the third game. But in keeping with a season long trend, the Cats were able to bounce back in the fourth game. NU held Purdue to a .024 hitting percentage.

In the fifth and deciding game, NU took an early 8-3 lead. But the Cats couldn’t maintain the lead, dropping the game (18-16) and the match.

On the bright side for NU, Leah Delcourt continued her recent strong play. The junior paced the Cats with a .429 hitting percentage in the match. Senior Iwona Lodzik contributed a team-high 23 kills.

After a disappointing loss to Purdue, NU was looking to rebound against Indiana, whom the Cats had swept in their earlier meeting this year. But this time, the Hoosiers did the sweeping, beating the Cats in three straight games (31-33, 33-35, 25-30).

The games were close, but NU wasnt able to overcome its 27 errors, compared to only 14 for the Hoosiers.

The Cats were again paced by strong play from Delcourt, who had a .600 hitting percentage to establish a personal best. Erika Lange also played well after struggling against Purdue, accumulating 16 kills in the three games.

“We expected Indiana to play well,” said head coach Keylor Chan. “Every team is going to strive to play well at home, and (the Hoosiers and Boilermakers) are in a position of having nothing to lose going into every match.”

NU will return home next weekend, and might have to sweep both Michigan and Michigan State to have a chance to extend their season.

“I’m thankful that we’re at home next weekend,” said Chan. “But that doesn’t mean we’ll have it easy.

“Michigan and Michigan State are gunning for conference wins, as we’re all on the same mission — getting an NCAA tourney berth.”