Sabel Moffett in the middle

Dan Ryan

Early in the fourth set during Northwestern’s match against Minnesota two weeks ago, senior middle blocker Sabel Moffett took a pass from senior setter Elyse Glab and put the ball away for a kill like she’d done so many times before.

Nine-hundred ninety-nine times before, to be exact.

“At the time, I didn’t realize I’d gotten my thousandth kill because we were in the mindset of beating Minnesota,” Moffett said. “I honestly didn’t even know until (the next day).”

Despite her inattention to the milestone, Moffett’s first kill in the fourth set was more than just another point against conference foe Minnesota. It made her just the 19th player in NU history to reach the 1,000-kill mark.

“For a middle to get a thousand kills is impressive,” coach Keylor Chan said. “Most of the balls are going to outside hitters, and when a middle can go out and get a thousand kills, that says something.”

Before she recorded her first kill, however, Moffett had to adjust to the high level of college play. After the Temecula, Calif., native redshirted her freshman year, she looked to establish herself on the same court as players far more experienced than she was.

“It was a huge transition,” Moffett said. “High school to college volleyball is dramatically different. I remember (my first game) was at Michigan, I’m only 5-foot-11 and I looked up and they were all like 6-foot-4, 6-foot-2.”

It didn’t take long for her to adjust.

Halfway through her final season of eligibility, Moffett has established herself in the NU record books, compiling 1,050 kills, 469 blocks, and a .316 hitting percentage.

“She’s up there,” Chan said. “She’s been able to lead our team to some things that the program hasn’t done.”

For Moffett, choosing to play for the program she would later define came down to a desire for something different.

“I decided that I really just wanted to get away from home,” Moffett said. “I checked out the Midwest, and I’d never lived here before so it was unique. And then (Northwestern) is just a great combination of athletics and academics.”

This season, Moffett led the Cats to a 15-2 record out of the gate, the best start in program history. Although the team has had its struggles recently, dropping six of its last eight matches, NU remains ranked No. 24 in the coaches’ poll and in excellent position to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament come December, its first since advancing to the second round in 2006.

Making the tournament is what matters to Moffett. As the stats, milestones, and awards pile up largely unnoticed by the graduate student, the only focus has been winning.

And the team has been doing just that.

“I feel that I have become the player that I am now because we just compete in practice every day, ” senior middle blocker Naomi Johnson said. “I have never had a relationship with someone who pushes me as hard as Sabel does. Our team would never be anywhere near as good as we are without her.”

As her last season at NU begins to draw to a close, Moffett would like nothing more than to lead her team to the postseason and beyond.

“That’s what an athlete wants to do,” Moffett said. “They want to be the best that they can be to help the team overall. Doing that, I think, has helped facilitate the kind of energy that our team needs to make the NCAA.”

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