Senior pair wants to go out on top (Volleyball)

Jimmy Mitchell

When Lindsay Anderson and Courtnie Paulus first arrived at Northwestern in 2004, the Wildcats were just coming off of two successful seasons that both resulted in trips to the NCAA tournament. The volleyball program seemed to hold much promise for the two up-and-coming freshmen.

However, with the graduation of four of NU’s key senior players in 2003, the Wildcats were starting essentially from scratch. Both Anderson and Paulus were started for most of the 2004 campaign, which was an opportunity that might not have been possible if the roster had been full of seasoned NU upperclassmen.

Now, three years after their NU debut, it would be safe to classify the 2004 through 2007 seasons as the era of the Anderson and Paulus dynasty.

Together, the pair has essentially rewritten the history books for the program. Anderson, from Wilmette, became the 17th member of the school’s 1,000 kills list as a junior, and has since moved all the way up to fifth on the all-time list. Paulus, from Belgium, Wis., joined her teammate in the record books as No. 18 earlier this year during the Northwestern Wildcat Classic in Evanston.

They are the first pair of classmates in the past 10 years to both reach the 1,000 kill milestone. In addition, they are only the fifth set of classmates in NU history to accomplish this feat.

Anderson and Paulus clearly will be remembered for a long time in the pantheon of NU volleyball. But what’s arguably more interesting is that their extraordinary accomplishments have not altered who they are, both on and off the court.

Both players classified getting 1,000 kills as “cool,” but any obsession with personal achievements or statistics stopped there.

“It’s awesome to be a teammate with Lindsay and share an accomplishment like that with her,” Paulus said. “But I’d still much rather win volleyball games.”

Anderson sighed when first asked of her personal successes. She also was quick to mention that, despite the height of her and Paulus’s accomplishments, their glory will not last long.

“They’re going to do bigger and better things than what we did,” Anderson said of her younger teammates.

Both seniors have found themselves in positions of leadership this year, as NU’s roster has become a fusion of veterans and underclassmen. The starting lineup currently consists of two freshmen, setter Elyse Glab and right side hitter Naomi Johnson, and one sophomore, libero Kate Nobilio. Their youthfulness is balanced by the presence of Anderson, Paulus and senior middle blocker Brittney Aldridge.

But this equilibrium of youth and experience did not always exist at NU.

“There were only like three older girls when I first started,” Anderson said. “They really welcomed us with open arms. On and off the court, they were really good to us.”

Anderson and Paulus both credit those older players for how they now interact with the current team’s nucleus of young talent. Paulus, the team’s captain, particularly took notice of the behavior of then-captain Drew Robertson, who still holds the NU record for career assists.

“She says what she feels. She demanded a lot out of our team when she was here. I feel like I’m kind of the same way,” Paulus said. “I did look up to Drew a lot, and I have taken some of her characteristics on for myself.”

The team finished Paulus and Anderson’s first year with a 10-20 record, a relative disappointment after two impressive seasons for NU. However, the seeds had been planted for this new NU generation. As sophomores, Anderson and Paulus started regularly and helped propel the Cats to the tournament for the third time in four years.

Both players characterize their relationship over their time at NU as one of comfort and trust. The two currently live just one floor apart from each other.

“We’ve always gotten along well and being on the court for four years, I just trust her so much,” Anderson said. “It’s a special relationship you have when you’ve been playing that long. In college, everyone filters in and filters out, and it’s been nice to have her, Brittney Aldridge (who lives with Paulus) and I having played together the whole time. That’s really special and something that’s hard to come by on other teams.”

After not having reached the NCAA tournament in 2006, Paulus and Anderson have one more chance to qualify for the postseason. NU currently is in the middle of contested race in the Big Ten and only trails third place in the conference by one game in the loss column.

With four matches left, the first being today at Iowa, how the Cats perform in the next two weeks will go a long way in determining whether or not Anderson and Paulus will have one final opportunity to represent NU at the national level.

What Paulus is most looking forward to in the last matches of her collegiate career is, quite simply, winning.

“I’m looking forward to finishing the best an NU team has ever done,” she said. “That’s something that could be awesome as a senior class to be able to share, to be able to do something no other team has done before here. I really want to finish strong and go out with a bang.”

If the first three years of their careers are any indication, Anderson and Paulus will close out their senior years with a finale to remember.

Reach Jimmy Mitchell at [email protected]