Young starters look to reverse losing skid (VOLLEYBALL)

Jimmy Mitchell

A slew of youthful, dynamic players helped power the Wildcats’ 10-2 surge to start the season. Now that Northwestern has dropped seven consecutive conference matches, the team is attempting to improve by bridging a gap between the younger and the older players, both on and off the court.

After struggling against several unranked opponents in the Big Ten, the Cats (10-9, 1-7 Big Ten) will have their hands full against No. 13 Minnesota (12-6, 5-3) on Friday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Iowa (9-10, 1-7), who has similarly struggled against conference opponents, will then come to Evanston to face the Cats on Saturday.

A large part of NU’s early successes came from the way in which coach Keylor Chan handled his sundry roster of veterans and underclassmen. Freshman setter Elyse Glab, redshirt freshmen outside hitter Brittani Gray and middle blocker Sabel Moffett, sophomore libero Kate Nobilio, and sophomore Emma Pollert defensive specialist have all made contributions to NU’s 2007 campaign.

Pollert, like the freshmen on the squad, is getting her first experience this year – she did not see any time on the court as a freshman during the 2006 season.

She first saw action this year, already three games into the season, during the Sept. 1 match against UNLV.

Since then, Pollert has become an integral part of NU’s defense. After playing in her first Big Ten match on Sept. 29 against Illinois, she has played a significant role on the team, making appearances in four of the last five matches.

“It’s definitely been a lot of fun. I try to bring a lot energy out there on the court,” Pollert said. “But it obviously hasn’t been as rewarding as it could be. Winning a couple of matches this weekend would be a lot more fun.”

Each member of the team has a binder filled will information and strategies on all the schools on the 2007 schedule. To exorcise their collective demons, the Wildcats ripped out every page in the binders except for those on the teams that are on the remaining schedule.

“(Losing has nothing to do with) our talent level,” Pollert said. “If we have the will to win on the court – and as a team – then it will happen.”

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