Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Freshman starters hit it big

Volleyball outside hitters have a way of drawing attention –not that blockers, setters and defensive players aren’t important,but there’s just something enticing about watching someone hit thebejesus out of a ball.

Ideally, the two outside positions would be filled byexperienced hitters, but for three straight matches, the Wildcats’outside hitters have been freshmen.

A lack of veterans forced Courtnie Paulus and Lindsay Andersoninto the starting lineup. But since being thrown into the fire, thetwo have grown used to their roles.

Since conference play began, either Paulus or Anderson — whomChan described as among “the best athletes we’ve ever had” — hasled the team in kills in every match except one. Through 16matches, Paulus leads the team with 3.52 kills per game whileAnderson ranks third with 2.45.

The Cats (6-10, 1-5 Big Ten) will be looking for more of thesame from their primary attackers when the team takes on Purdue(10-6, 3-3) and Indiana (6-10, 0-5) over the weekend at Welsh-RyanArena.

“As freshmen, very few outside hitters can probably do whatthey’re doing right now, and I think that a big load of our successis on their shoulders,” Chan said. “To some extent, as they gowe’ll go.”

Anderson, recruited from down the street in Wilmette, began theseason as Northwestern’s starting outside hitter, but she turnedthe role over to Paulus after the Belgium, Wis., resident playedwell in the first game of the Chicago Challenge on Sept 10. Paulusnotched seven kills against Loyola, including one that knocked thewind out of a defending Rambler.

After that weekend, Paulus was named to the all-tourney team,sharing the honor with teammate and senior co-captain DrewRobertson. At the Wildcat Classic a week later, the freshman wonall-tourney honors again.

Paulus’ reaction to becoming the first NU freshman sinceRobertson to be selected to an all-tourney team was nonchalant.

“I wasn’t expecting it, so I was taken aback,” she said. “Ididn’t know what to say.”

Paulus later led the team with nine kills against Illinois onOct. 1. Anderson returned to the starting lineup that night andrecorded eight kills.

In the next match, at Iowa, Anderson nailed 21 kills and led allattackers with a .390 hitting percentage. But when asked about thatperformance, Anderson deflected the credit.

“It felt really good that our team really came together,” shesaid.

Her shyness about accepting compliments, however, has notstopped the praise from coming.

“Lindsay Anderson’s a very, very pure athlete as far as beingable to jump, elevate,” Chan said. “You see her hit balls, and it’svery impressive.

“Courtnie (Paulus) is just a great athlete. She justfundamentally understands the game. You can’t teach some of thethings she just does naturally.”

This season hasn’t been all fun and games for Paulus andAnderson. Along with experiencing the thrill of college volleyball,the two also have suffered the game’s pitfalls. At one time oranother, both have lost starting jobs, and both have struggled onthe court.

“It’s tough as freshmen, but those are the breaks of life,” Chansaid. “You never get to predict or choose everything you want todo, so you just need to do the best you can when the opportunitypresents itself, and I think they’ve done that.”

The best part, Chan said, is that the youngsters will onlyimprove with time. Lineups may change — 10 different players onNU’s 13-player squad have started at some point — but in themeantime, Paulus and Anderson are the go-to attackers.

“They took big steps (last) weekend and they’re finallydeveloping into Big Ten outside hitters,” said junior co-captainChristie Gardner, who played the position last season.

“Coming in as freshmen and starting in the Big Ten every game istough,” Gardner said, “but they’re getting better and showing moresigns of becoming better volleyball players. It’s been fun tosee.”

Reach Anthony Tao at [email protected].

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Freshman starters hit it big