Volleyball: Ranked for swats, blocker is net force

Sarah Kuta

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On any given day of the week, junior middle blocker Sabel Moffett can be spotted showing her Wildcat pride by wearing purple or attending Northwestern sporting events.

On game day, however, Moffett only has one pastime in mind: eating Hershey’s Milk Duds while dancing to “Crank Dat” by Soulja Boy in the locker room with her team.

“It gets your heart racing and gets you into the mentality that it’s game time,” Moffett said.

The Cats (9-5, 0-2 Big Ten) take on No. 6 Michigan (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten) and No. 23 Michigan State (12-2, 0-2 Big Ten) this weekend for their second round of Big Ten play. The Cats play the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich., today and then will travel to East Lansing, Mich., to face the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday.

Moffett’s dominant offensive efforts and positive energy on the court have led NU to win three out of its first four tournaments this season. Though the Cats lost to No.1 Penn State and Ohio State last weekend, Moffett was an indispensable member of the team’s offensive front.

Against Penn State, Moffett had nine kills on 14 attempts with two errors for a .500 hitting percentage. She had 15 kills on 26 attempts with six errors against Ohio State for a .346 hitting percentage, pacing the Cats in both games.

Though this weekend’s matches will be tough, Moffett has only optimistic predictions.

“We’re playing a top ranked team,” Moffett said. “On any given night anybody can win. I’m anticipating going out there with a strong show and coming back with two wins.”

Moffett has been an offensive force for NU this season, steering the team to victories over James Madison and Miami (Ohio). She is tied for second in the Big Ten in blocks per set (1.40), fourth in hitting percentage (.427), fifth in points per set (4.44) and 10th in kills per set (3.48).

The junior, who red-shirted her freshman year, started playing volleyball by accident. A self-described “track girl,” Moffett tried out for her high school volleyball team on a whim after some careful persuasion by a neighbor.

Aside from chemistry and charisma on the court, one of the most important pieces of the game for Moffett is school pride.

“It can make or break a team,” Moffett said. “When we go to gyms that are packed, it definitely gives them an edge. You wear that logo and everything you do is part of the Northwestern community.”

When she steps on the court, Moffett aims not only to represent NU and the Big Ten, but to give off the impression that NU is a force to be reckoned with not just in academics, but also athletics.

And if that means she’s the player the opponent worries about, all the better.

“You want to have that competitive edge,” she said. “You want to be the player that the other team wants to stop and is worried about stopping.”

In 2008, Moffett recorded a career-best 280 kills with a .264 hitting percentage and led the team total blocks (115).

Coach Keylor Chan attributed Moffett’s leadership and immense presence on the court to her experience.

“This is a culmination of three years of really hard work for her,” Chan said. “She’s been fantastic. She’s a phenomenal

competitor.”

Despite Moffett’s strong play to start the season, the whole team will need to step up against the stiff competition this weekend.

Chan explained that NU will face two different teams with two very different styles of play. While Michigan is a veteran team and a “steady eddie,” he said Michigan State is a more physical team that is willing to take risks.

Junior Naomi Johnson said that although the Cats will be the underdog in both games this weekend, both teams are beatable.

“They would be great upset wins,” Johnson said. “Coming in as the underdog takes a little pressure off. We definitely can beat these teams if we play to our potential.”

sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu

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