Wildcats tally one upset, fall short of second

Jimmy Mitchell

By Jimmy Mitchell

The Daily Northwestern

Facing two of the top 25 teams in the nation over the weekend, the Wildcats proved they were a force to be reckoned with.

After losing the first game in a best-of-five match against No. 23 Ohio State, Northwestern came from behind for a 3-2 victory on Friday.

The Cats (10-3, 1-1 Big Ten) hung tough the following day against third-ranked Penn State (10-2, 2-0 Big Ten), but ultimately dropped two close games and lost the match, 3-0.

The win over Ohio State (7-4, 1-1 Big Ten) was the Cats’ eighth straight of the season despite arriving at Columbus as underdogs. The situation worsened when NU lost the first game, 28-30.

“We weren’t ready to come out at first,” sophomore Kate Nobilio said.

Coach Keylor Chan admitted that his team was not playing its best volleyball. While technical skills were failing his players, he was pleased with how hard his team was playing.

“I was most impressed with the effort,” Chan said, “even though we weren’t playing our best.”

The Cats’ effort propelled them to winning the next two games against the Buckeyes by six- and eight-point margins. After losing the fourth game, NU was set for a decisive showdown in the fifth.

“The match was so up and down,” Junior Courtnie Paulus said. “It was like a seesaw in the fifth game.”

When that “seesaw” finally touched the ground, it was in NU’s favor. After seeing Ohio State go ahead with an early four points, the Cats rallied for a 15-13 victory that completed the comeback.

“We knew we could beat them. It’s not enough to go in there and almost beat a ranked team,” Paulus said. “We had great confidence and rhythm on the floor.”

Fitting of such a victory, several Cats had career best performances. Senior Lindsay Anderson had 19 kills, her most ever at NU. Setter Elyse Glab continued her stellar freshman year with 61 assists, her high for the season. Nobilio, the team’s defensive specialist, had 23 digs and extended a streak of 20 digs in each of five matches.

“We knew we were coming in as underdogs so beating one of the bigger teams was really big for us,” said Nobilio.

NU’s confidence extended to University Park, Penn., where the Cats held their own against a Penn State team that has won the previous four Big Ten championships. Northwestern even possessed a three-point lead in the early goings against the conference powerhouse.

The Cats continued to play tough yet lost the first game after being tied at 29. After NU dropped the second by seven points, it became apparent that the team did not have another stirring comeback victory in them, falling 30-13 in the third.

“We were pretty good in games one and two,” Chan said. “In game three, we just fell apart.”

Despite coming up short in the second match, the Cats look to continue to improve upon their high level of play against the rest of the Big Ten. The match against Ohio State, in particular, has provided a boost.

“We came out and were turning on all cylinders,” Paulus said. “It’s a huge confidence builder. We just have to come in and practice hard for this week.”

Nobilio had a pithier reaction to Friday’s victory.

“It was awesome,” she said.

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