Game Four Comeback Saves Wildcats From Weekend Sweep (Volleyball)

Andrew Simon

By Andrew SimonThe Daily Northwestern

When Cassie McLaughlin entered the match, Northwestern was hurting. But it wasn’t long before they were smiling right along with their happy-go-lucky reserve sparkplug.

The Wildcats (9-8, 3-5 Big Ten) stormed back from a two games-to-one deficit to take down No. 16 Ohio State (13-5, 3-5) in five games Saturday in Evanston. The win gave NU a split for the weekend after suffering a sweep at the hands of No. 2 Penn State (19-0, 8-0) Friday.

McLaughlin, who didn’t appear in the Penn State match, entered the Ohio State contest to start game four. The senior middle blocker/outside hitter made her presence felt, taking a pass from junior setter Stephanie Jurivich and smashing it over the net for a kill on the first point of the game.

“Just being able to play with the girls on the team and playing in that situation is fun,” McLaughlin said. “I thrive on it, and when I get a chance to go into the game, I try to make the best of it.”

In the final two games against Ohio State, both NU wins, McLaughlin tallied seven kills, tied for most on the team in that stretch. She also did it without committing an error, giving her a .778 hitting percentage.

“All I have is praise for her,” coach Keylor Chan said. “She did exactly what we needed her to do, which was provide a spark. She was our little energizer bunny that really helped propel our team.”

NU scratched out a tough 30-28 victory in a game one that had 14 ties and six lead changes, but couldn’t keep the momentum going. The Cats led only briefly in each of the next two games and fell 30-24 and 30-26.

In game four, NU led the most of the way and held on for a 30-27 win. Then, trailing 7-6 in game five, the Cats closed on a 9-3 run, aided by a team hitting percentage of .625, with no attack errors.

The match was a memorable one for many Cats. Senior defensive specialist Lauren Greenwood set a career high with 19 digs, Jurivich notched a career-high 63 assists and junior middle blocker Brittney Aldridge recorded her first career double-double with 10 blocks and a career-best 16 kills.

“In order to run my position, you have to have great passing and great setting, so it’s kind of like a team payoff,” Aldridge said. “I’m just grateful we could work together and get the job done.”

The win was a good way for the Cats to end the weekend after getting swept by Penn State Friday.

Penn State had lost only one game in six conference matches coming in, but the Cats held leads in all three games and hung with their opponent for much of the match. Yet in each game, Penn State eventually pulled away from NU and earned the sweep (30-26, 30-26, 30-22).

“Playing (Penn State) tough is kind of a moral victory, but we’re not in the business of moral victories,” Chan said. “The end result does matter this time of year. So playing them tough is great – it lets you know you’re in the ballpark – but you need to win to really push through.”

Reach Andrew Simon at [email protected]