Volleyball: Dutchman with a chance at history

Steven Montero

Katie Dutchman set a Wildcats record Monday when she was named both the Big Ten’s Defensive Player and Freshman of the Week for the third consecutive time. No other Northwestern volleyball player has ever received three straight conference awards of any kind.

Dutchman is a redshirt freshman and middle blocker from Del Mar, Calif., who saw her first action this year after recovering from an injury to her shin over the summer. Although she was held out of training for a good part of the summer due to her injury, Dutchman hasn’t shown any rust, as she is just decimal points behind Penn State’s Katie Slay for the lead in blocks per set within the conference.

Competing in one of the best volleyball conferences in the nation, Dutchman said the three-peat is “surreal.”

“The first week was kind of like a shock,” she said. “The second week it was like, ‘whoa this is pretty serious.’ The third week – it was another shock.”

Dutchman remains humble about her accomplishments and said winning as a team is more important to her than any individual accolades. She said this week’s honor was especially surprising because she said her teammate, freshman Yewande Akanbi, deserved recognition for her performance last weekend against No. 15 Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Yet fellow middle blocker and junior Kathryn Chrystal said the awards are well-earned.

“She worked really hard in her redshirt year to get her where she is now,” Chrystal said. “It’s awesome that she’s second in the Big Ten for blocks right now and she’s one of the smaller middles. It just kind of goes to show you how athletic she is and how her blocking skills are just really fantastic.”

Dutchman’s proliferation of awards intimidates opponents, Chrystal said, and coach Keylor Chan added that the public recognition of NU and Dutchman serves as a “good ego boost.”

Chan said he is elated to see Dutchman’s success, especially coming back from injury.

“By far she’s probably been the most productive freshman of all the Big Ten teams so far and her role is very critical,” Chan said. “She’s our starting M1, which is traditionally your strongest middle as far as attacking and blocking together. Her statistics and her impact in the games have shown that. She’s been a very critical factor in our success.”

After slamming down the winning point in last Friday’s 3-0 upset of the Golden Gophers, Dutchman seems poised to provide more than strong defense for NU. Also ranked fourth in the conference in service aces, Dutchman’s serves have helped anchor the Cats.

Chrystal said the young middle blocker has grown continually as one of the “focal leaders” of the team with her energy and excitement on the court.

The junior said this weekend’s matches against Indiana and No. 11 Purdue will be challenging, but she’s confident NU will have a fighting chance, particularly with Dutchman on its side of the net.

With another outstanding performance, Dutchman might earn a fourth week of medals, which has never been accomplished by any Big Ten player.

“That would be awesome,” Dutchman said, “that’d be kind of great – that’d be crazy.”

Chan said he’s hopeful.

“Predicting success is tricky business,” Chan said. “I know people don’t like that, but I feel really good about where she is. I think she feels really good about it. ‘

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