Volleyball: NU records first road conference win of the season

Steven Montero

Northwestern pulled off its first victory on the road Saturday as it took down Iowa in three straight sets.

The Wildcats earned the elusive win after losing their last five Big Ten matches. NU exhibited dominance in all aspects of the game, putting up more kills, blocks and assists than the Hawkeyes.

“It was bound to happen,” junior Julie Chin said. “We just needed that one game to just push us off and that was it. Next week is the start of the second half of the Big Tens and it’s just that one game that can turn everything around.”

Coach Keylor Chan said the ‘Cats brought forth their best defense and didn’t commit too many errors, something he said the team has been improving on throughout the season. NU is currently ranked third in blocking within the Big Ten, accumulating 12.5 team blocks against Iowa.

Redshirt freshman Katie Dutchman was honored with two consecutive Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week and Co-Freshman of the Week awards. She executed one solo block and five assisted blocks against the Hawkeyes, as well as seven kills.

Dutchman said NU’s blocking has proven to be top-notch within the Big Ten and said that the ‘Cats’ defense helped them win the Iowa match with ease.

“We just came out with a lot of emotion,” Dutchman said. “We played to our standard and our level of volleyball. We didn’t come down to their level because it was a little slower. We came out and kind of took charge.”

Despite her individual accolades within the conference, Dutchman said her main focus is helping the team win and remain competitive.

After five consecutive losses, NU’s victory comes right at a turning point in its season, when the ‘Cats must face all their past opponents again plus No. 1 Nebraska.

“Getting a win gives you a little extra gas in the tank,” Chan said.

He said a team that was young and lacked experience together at the beginning of the season grew into a competitive and cohesive unit and added that the rest of the season will test whether or not NU’s growth was adequate.

Chin said the team learned how to play together and handle the “mental aspects” of the game such as bringing energy onto the court.

“Now our freshmen know the speed of the game and our competitors,” Chin said, “just the type of level we’re playing at. We’re all getting more comfortable on the court. We just need to play with more energy and excitement and just knowing that we can win, having that confidence.”

Although Dutchman said Iowa wasn’t the ‘Cats’ biggest competition, she said the victory still gives NU the confidence it needs to get the job done.

The Cats hope to carry their momentum into this weekend when No. 15 Minnesota and Wisconsin visit Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“Winning feels good and we want that feeling again,” Chin said. “We know that the people we will be competing against are going to be a little bit at higher level than Iowa but we know we’re capable of doing it. We just need to keep improving each week and just savoring this feeling.”

[email protected] u.northwestern.edu