Key weekend lies ahead for upstart Wildcats (Volleyball)

Jimmy Mitchell

By Jimmy Mitchell

The Daily Northwestern

Coming off a promising beginning to conference play in which Northwestern beat one ranked team and hung tough with another, the Wildcats return to Welsh-Ryan Arena this weekend to take on a top 10 school and an interstate rival.

The Cats (10-3, 1-1 Big Ten) will face No. 9 Wisconsin (10-1, 2-0) at 7 p.m. Friday and Illinois (8-4, 0-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday. NU, having played two ranked teams and facing a third on Friday, has had the toughest opening inter-conference schedule of any team in the Big Ten.

The Cats’ arduous early-season schedule has allowed them to measure themselves against quality opponents. Coach Keylor Chan feels NU’s opening weekend performance will be a push in the right direction for the team.

“Opening Big Ten play last weekend against OSU and PSU was a good test for us,” Chan said. “That is typically the toughest road trip of the year and to come out with a split puts us in a good position for week two in the Big Ten.”

The Badgers arrive in Evanston following a 2-0 weekend at Illinois and Michigan. The Illini are coming off losses to two top-10 teams, Wisconsin and Michigan. Both weekend matches pose unique opportunities for the Cats.

“In my career here, I have yet to get a win against Wisconsin or Penn State, so I am hoping to get that first win this weekend,” said junior middle blocker Chelsy Hyser. “This weekend will also be a good one to beat an in-state rival, Illinois. Since they are not too far in distance, our crowd always seems to be quite large, so it should be a fun atmosphere to play in.”

Also motivating the team will be the fact that, by beating Ohio State, NU won its first Big Ten opener since 2002.

“Our team is ready to play Wisconsin and Illinois, and our desire to win is going to show on the court,” said freshman setter Elyse Glab.

NU went 1-1 against the Illini and 0-2 against the Badgers during the 2006 season. But in their last match against Wisconsin, the Cats came back from a 0-2 hole to force a tiebreaking fifth set.

Another display of that type of resiliency would further establish NU as a key player in the conference.

“Both opponents will present challenges for us,” Chan said. “I know our team is looking forward to competing this Friday and Saturday. It is an opportunity for us to show the volleyball community we belong with the very best.”

Reach Jimmy Mitchell at

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