Volleyball: Wildcats pick up critical win in weekend split


Daily file photo by Sarah Tassoni

Middle blocker Katie Dutchman recorded 15 kills in the Wildcats’ win over the Badgers. Coach Keylor Chan was pleased with Northwestern’s weekend split.

Ben Taylor, Reporter

When Northwestern went into its first Big Ten match of the season against Wisconsin in September, the team was riding an 11-game winning streak, its longest since 1983. However, Wisconsin won the match 3-1, and the Wildcats would go on to lose four of their next five conference matches.

On a weekend critical in deciding NU’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament, the Cats would get revenge against the Badgers on the road, and in the process, solidify themselves as a strong Big Ten opponent.

“I think this was a weekend to kind of get us on a roll,” sophomore middle blocker Katie Dutchman said. “We came up short (against Minnesota) but it kind of got us started for the second half of our season with the win (against Wisconsin).”

The Cats (15-8, 4-8 Big Ten) picked up an important split this weekend, losing to No. 10 Minnesota (19-4, 10-2) on Friday before taking down Wisconsin (16-9, 4-8) in a Sunday matinee.

Although NU could not sweep the weekend, coach Keylor Chan said he was happy escaping the pair of road matches with a win.

“In the Big Ten, if you can split on the road that’s a very good thing,” Chan said. “We just want to enjoy this and get fresh for the next couple of matches.”

In the Minnesota match, the Cats seemed to revert to their old ways of giving up several long runs to the opposition. At the beginning of the first set, the Golden Gophers stormed out to a 6-1 lead, and after NU rallied back, Minnesota quickly put together a 9-2 run to win the set 25-19. In the second, both teams battled back and forth, with the Cats ultimately gaining a 24-22 advantage. However, NU dropped the next four points and let Minnesota take it 26-24. The Gophers would dominate the third set and win it 25-20.

NU looked like a different team Sunday.

After coming out and taking the first set 25-11, the Cats continued to an early 8-1 lead in the second set. But Wisconsin clawed back, winning the frame 25-18. With the Badgers dominating the third set by winning 25-9, NU showed its resilience by taking the fourth 25-18 before winning the decisive fifth set 16-14.

Junior outside hitter Stephanie Holthus, who finished Sunday’s game with 21 kills and 15 digs, said the win was a step in the right direction.

“I think we’re all really excited,” Holthus said. “Getting that win in five (sets) was a huge step, and now we can just look forward to next weekend.”

The win moves the Cats into eighth place in the Big Ten with a chance to jump to sixth place this coming weekend. However, NU’s remaining conference schedule contains four top 25 teams, with two of those four ranked in the top 5.

For Keylor Chan and his team, the main goal right now is to keep winning.

“We’re still focusing on getting these ‘W’s’ to help us get into the postseason,” Holthus said. “If we keep playing like how we played tonight and keep improving, I think the postseason is looking pretty good for us.”