Volleyball: Wildcats get revenge

Jimmy Mitchell

The last time Northwestern faced Michigan State, it was three weeks ago and the Wildcats were mired in a rough stretch of Big Ten play. While NU was competitive against the Spartans, they ultimately dropped the match and continued what would become a seven-match losing streak.

Wednesday night it was a different story.

The Cats (13-9, 4-7 Big Ten) handily defeated the Spartans (13-10, 4-7), 3-1, at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The win was an effective, if not ideally executed, beginning to the start of the second half of the Big Ten schedule.

“It wasn’t the prettiest match,” senior outside hitter Courtnie Paulus said. “We just wanted it, and we worked hard.”

Both teams engaged in a number of sustained rallies and lead changes, but they also combined for 63 errors. The sloppiness extended to the scorekeeping, as NU lost a couple of points in the opening game due to a gaffe in record-keeping.

The Cats relied on the solid play of both their veterans and their underclassmen. Sophomore libero Kate Nobilio had a match-high 20 digs, and senior Brittney Aldridge led the team in both kills (18) and hitting percentage (.455).

Aldridge’s 18 kills were a personal record.

Senior outside hitter Lindsay Anderson added 14 kills, while Paulus and junior middle blocker Chelsy Hyser each contributed 11 kills of her own.

NU coach Keylor Chan credited the Cats’ success Wednesday to effective practice and pre-game strategy.

“Going in, we knew we were going to have to control one of their two outside hitters,” Chan said. “And we were able to do that: (Michigan State senior) Ashley Schatzle had less than a .100 hitting percentage.”

Schatzle had 14 kills out of 57 total attempts.

“We also knew we had to control their offense,” Chan said. “We had to serve really well, and we were able to do that and get them out of their (offensive) system.”

NU had six serving aces, four coming from Anderson. It was the fifth time this season she has reached that figure.

Freshman setter Elyse Glab also played a significant role for the Cats. She finished the match with 50 assists and 10 digs.

“We were a lot more calm and mentally prepared (going into Wednesday’s match),” Glab said. “We knew we were going (to win).”

That high level of confidence helped NU bounce back from a 28-29 deficit in the first game. Chan called a timeout, and the Cats were able to prevent a first-game loss by winning the next point.

After engaging in an overtime that saw the score shift back and forth, NU took the first game, 33-31, with a Paulus kill from the middle of the floor.

After dropping the second set 27-30, the Cats won the next two games 30-27 and 30-24 for the victory.

NU has now won three-straight matches since its seven-match losing streak.

“I think when we’re down, we don’t let what’s happened affect us,” Glab said. “We just go from where we’re at.”

Reach Jimmy Mitchell at [email protected]