Volleyball: No. 24 NU volleyball splits pair, snaps five-game losing streak vs. Iowa

Dan Ryan

Riding a four-game losing streak into their game Friday, the Wildcats were looking for a spark to reignite the success they enjoyed earlier in the season.

That spark, however, didn’t arrive soon enough to defeat No. 20 Minnesota.

No. 24 Northwestern fell to the Gophers in four sets on Friday before snapping their then-five-game losing streak by sweeping Iowa in three sets on Saturday.

Opening the weekend, the Cats were hungry for a win to turn around their dismal October against an opponent they upset earlier in the season.

The match began much like the previous meeting between the two teams. A few team errors in the first set put NU in a hole early, and Minnesota took advantage of the mistakes, never allowing the Cats to hold a lead en route to a 25-17 set for the victory

Although the Cats overcame a 0-1 deficit previously to beat the Gophers, Friday was a different story. Despite two rallies late to keep pace with Minnesota, NU just couldn’t edge them completely, and dropped the second set 23-25.

Fighting to stay alive, the Cats rallied in the third set. A complete team performance simply overwhelmed the Gophers, and NU would quickly take the frame 25-16. Leading the rally was senior outside hitter Christina Kaelin, who had a season-high 17 kills, and sophomore outside hitter Madalyn Shalter (8 kills, 7 blocks). Senior middle blocker Sabel Moffett also contributed 8 kills to the cause.

The effort in the third proved not enough as the Cats simply could not hold the Gophers off in the fourth set, dropping the set 18-25 and with it the match.

“I thought we played hard,” coach Keylor Chan said. “We’re pretty comparable teams. We just didn’t execute down the stretch.”

Moffett provided a bright spot in the loss, becoming the 19th member of Northwestern’s 1,000 kill club.

“(Sabel’s) probably one of the best players we’ve ever had,” Chan said. “She’s a very important piece of our team.”

Despite Moffett’s milestone kill, the Cats brought a five-game losing skid into Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday where they’ve struggled mightily the past few seasons.

NU took its recent frustrations out on the hapless Hawkeyes, however, and ended both their losing streak and their woes in Iowa in one fell swoop, sweeping the match 25-16, 25-23, 25-19.

Freshman outside hitter Stephanie Holthus led the charge with 10 kills, 14 digs, and three blocks. Kaelin continued her strong play with 8 kills, and senior middle blocker Naomi Johnson added 7 kills of her own as the Cats found the win column for the first time in three weeks.

The win guarantees NU a winning record for the season and evens their Big Ten record at 6-6.

“We were more focused on getting one more win,” Chan said. “It was nice of our team to bounce back. Now we’ll be over .500 no matter what.”

The Cats face a key rematch this weekend with Big Ten powerhouse No. 6 Illinois, and a win would give NU a crucial Big Ten victory.

It’s an opportunity to play one of the top teams in the conference,” Chan said. “It’s not going to be easy, and we know that.”

After the matchup against the Illini, the Cats host unranked Wisconsin as they look to keep their conference record at or above .500.

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