Youth movement not served, still a work in progress

Nick Halpern

The Northwestern volleyball team was plagued by inconsistency last season. Inserting four new starters into the lineup this season has not helped solve the problem for NU.

“With a young team, it’s hard to be consistent,” said setter Drew Robertson, the lone senior in the starting lineup.

The Wildcats’ inexperience showed at the Wildcat Invitational last weekend. On Friday, NU (5-5) swept Villanova (3-6) in the tournament’s opening match 30-16, 30-24, 30-23. But Western Kentucky and No. 13 Stanford provided stiffer challenges for the home team.

The Cats carried the momentum of their victory into their second match of the day against Western Kentucky. NU took the first game 30-28, but was blown out in the second game, 30-17.

“We weren’t prepared for them to push back, which we should have expected, and we didn’t push back,” Robertson said. “When you win the first game you should know that the other team is going to want to win the next game.”

The Cats led for much of the third game but made crucial errors at the end to give the game to the Western Kentucky (10-1).

“Errors will kill you — errors are the things that will really hurt teams,” coach Keylor Chan said. “Right now our team makes a lot of errors.”

Western Kentucky came out strong in the fourth game, taking a 19-7 lead and prompting Chan to take a timeout.

During the timeout, Robertson told the players to take pride in their team and to focus on their fundamentals.

The Cats were able to rally to within two points in the final game but fell short, losing 30-24.

“I’m proud of them for making that push, but you’re down 12 points and with rally scoring it’s a race to the end,” Chan said. “If you’re down that much they’ve got a mile lead on you, and I don’t even think the best teams in the nation can make that comeback. I guess it’s a valiant effort.”

Stanford (7-2) came into the match undefeated in the tournament and riding a six-game winning streak.

NU wasn’t able to slow down the Cardinal, getting swept 30-17, 30-23, 30-18.

“I’m not disappointed — that’s the Stanford Cardinal,” Chan said. “It was an opportunity to get better.

“We’re not happy with the outcome — it’s never fun to lose — but they played like a Final Four team tonight.”

For Lizzie Carlton, a native of Palo Alto, Calif., it was strange to see the Cardinal on the other side of the net.

“I grew up watching them play,” Carlton said. “It’s cool to know that I can play at that level.”

Despite getting spanked by Stanford, the Cats took something away from the lopsided match.

“We learned about having to play consistently if we’re going to compete against the top 10,” freshman Stephanie Jurivich said. “We need to step up and play as a team.”

NU begins its Big Ten schedule next week. The Big Ten boasts four top-25 teams, a daunting task for a young team.

“We have to train and put in time,” Chan said. “There’s no quick fix.”

Stats box:

STAN 3

NU 0

Saturday

W. KEN 3

NU 1

Friday

V’NOVA 0

NU 3

Friday