Cats extend win streak to 6, continue perfect November (Volleyball)

Annie Martin

Earlier in the season, senior Lizzie Carlson said the perfect ending to her Northwestern volleyball career would be a trip to the NCAA tournament. After failing to qualify last year, the Wildcats’ tournament hopes look promising after defeating Michigan State and Michigan over the weekend.

“As far as what the committee’s done in the past, our record should get us in,” Carlson said. “We should be golden at this point, but if we win the next two matches, we’ll be awesome so we still need to get these last two wins.”

The Cats swept Michigan State 3-0 on Friday and won against Michigan 3-1 on Saturday. NU (18-1, 9-9 Big Ten) is now alone in sixth place in conference standings after a six match winning streak in the month of November.

Though the Cats have one more home match against Wisconsin on Wednesday, Saturday was Senior Night. Carlson had 19 digs, tying her career match-high while fellow senior Christie Gardner had 32. Gardner now holds five of the school’s top-10 single-match dig records.

Despite the Cats’ success over the weekend, they didn’t feel it was their finest hour.

“We found a way to win even though we weren’t playing our best,” junior Lauren Greenwood said about Saturday’s match. “We had lulls but we came back and found a way.”

The Cats came out strong in games one and two in both the Michigan State (12-16, 5-13) and Michigan matches but slowed down in the third games. On Saturday, NU had just nine kills in game three while Michigan (14-13, 8-10) had 19 and lost the game 31-29. On Friday, the Cats pulled through and won the match in three matches but trailed Michigan State in both kills and digs.

“Half of it is it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. You have two wins, you’re like ‘Just 30 more points, that’s all I need.’ And plus the other team’s at their last ditch effort, so they come out really hard in game three,” Carlson said. “So I guess we just need to keep our composure in those situations and finish it when it really gets down the line.”

According to Chan, part of the Cats’ success has been due to offensive adjustments. Freshman Chelsy Hyser has stepped up to play middle blocker in the starting rotation.

In addition, the middle blockers are staying closer to the setter, which results in a quicker offense. However, Chan also said NU has been able to run the middles closer to the setter because of improved ball control.

Blocking also made a huge difference this weekend. The Cats recorded 19 blocks against Michigan, including 32 block assists, the third highest in team history.

“We need to work on some passing skills. We weren’t real sharp in that department,” coach Keylor Chan said. “And the great thing is our blocking made up for it. We had a phenomenal blocking night. Best blocking night we’ve maybe ever had in our program. Nineteen blocks in four games is incredible.”

Chan also pointed out Friday the Cats’ blocking caused Michigan State to make several attacking errors. NU made fewer hitting errors than Michigan State and Michigan but also had fewer kills.

“We were resilient. We never gave up,” sophomore Courtnie Paulus said after Friday’s match. “We weren’t playing our best volleyball. We know we can play better but, we hung in there.”

Reach Annie Martin at [email protected]