Northwestern hopes to recover from weak conference play (VOLLEYBALL)

Jimmy Mitchell

Northwestern hopes to recover from weak conference play (VOLLEYBALL)

By Jimmy Mitchell

The Daily Northwestern

After suffering consecutive defeats at the hands of four Big Ten foes, Northwestern looks to rebound against another ranked opponent on Sunday.

The Wildcats (10-6, 1-4 Big Ten) are scheduled to play No. 16 Michigan (13-3, 1-3 Big Ten) at 1 p.m. CT in Ann Arbor. Both teams are looking to recover from poor early starts inconference play.

NU began the 2007 volleyball season with a strong 9-2 record that culminated with a sweep of the Northwestern Wildcat Classic on Sept. 14 and 15. The Cats’ dominance continued when they defeated then-No. 23 Ohio State in a thrilling comeback victory on Sept 21.

Since their impressive run, however, the Cats have been anything but dominating. NU has not won more than a single game in any of their recent matches against Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State.

Despite the outcomes of the last four matches, Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan maintains that his team is not being severely outplayed by any of its opponents.

“At times we’ve played really nice,” Chan said. “As a team, we really need to learn to minimize errors and be able to pull away against teams. We’re going to work on that the next two to three days going into Sunday.”

NU has been consistently competitive in games for the length of its winning streak. In NU’s 0-3 loss against No. 3 Penn State on Sept. 22, the Cats hung with the powerhouse Nittany Lions for most of the match and even pushed the first game into extra points.

As solidly as the Cats began the 2007 campaign, the Wolverines’ season opened even more promisingly. Michigan went 13-0 before dropping three straight Big Ten matches to Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.

Most disappointing for the Wolverines was their Sept. 28 loss at Iowa in which they held a 2-0 lead and then proceeded to drop three straight sets to the Hawkeyes. Michigan had won their previous 10 meetings with Iowa.

NU’s schedule becomes significantly weaker after Sunday’s match against Michigan. Only one of its following five opponents (No. 11 Minnesota) is in the Top 25.

Still, the Wildcats look to break their recent slump this weekend. To do that, according to the head coach, requires going back to the basics.

“We have to go back to doing some basic things and to learn playing as a team again,” Chan said. “That’s something that we have lost in the last 10 days.”

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