Volleyball: NU seeks Welsh-Ryan lift against No. 12 Purdue

Steven Montero

Northwestern battles No. 12 Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena Wednesday looking for its first Big Ten win, after falling to its first two conference opponents last weekend.

The Wildcats must figure out some way to quickly respond just a few days after their losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota. They have no choice but to move on, as this upcoming match may prove to be NU’s greatest challenge yet.

Coach Keylor Chan said the Boilermakers (13-0) are “the most complete team” the Wildcats have played all season. With a “very dynamic” front line that can control the ball and a “solid” back court, the Cats will need to be at their best.

“They only graduated one player from last year’s team,” Chan said. “They’re experienced, an older team and they know how to win so we have our hands full going against Purdue tomorrow at home.”

NU will have to spring into action like it did during the first set of the Minnesota match Sunday, when a 10-0 run gave the Golden Gophers quite a surprise. Freshmen Hannah Crippen and Yewande Akanbi attributed that success to the team’s high energy.

“It’s all pretty much mental stuff we can fix,” Akanbi said, “and hopefully by Purdue we work all these things out and are able to beat them and play at our best.”

Chan said that’s the mentality the Cats need to take into their match against the Boilermakers. If NU can “emotionally prepare” itself to tackle a strong rival, it has a better chance to win. During practice they’ve been working on “attacking against a bigger block” and focusing on “how to score the ball,” he said.

NU is a young team that needs to prove itself against Big Ten competition. Being “aggressive” and taking “acceptable risks” are some ways he plans to empower the Cats’ attack, but because Purdue has limited weaknesses it’s ultimately about execution and building a reputation.

“Purdue is, on paper, supposed to be a better team,” Chan said, “and we’re going to have to go out there and prove we belong. That’s the mindset we have to have: go out and earn your way into the discussion of being one of the top teams.”

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