Volleyball: Wildcats split weekend to Michigan teams


Daily file photo by Sarah Tassoni

Setter Madalyn Shalter was a key cog in Northwestern’s defeat of Michigan. The senior recorded 46 assists and 17 digs as the Wildcats won 3-1.

Ryan Miller, Reporter

The Wildcats avoided suffering more heartbreak at the hands of Michigan on Friday.

Northwestern (16-13, 5-13 Big Ten) defeated Michigan (21-11, 9-9) this Friday 3-1. The following night, the Cats could not seem to replicate the day’s earlier win against Michigan State, losing to the Spartans (23-7, 11-7) on Saturday in straight sets.

The Cats faced a Wolverine squad that came into Welsh-Ryan Arena with five straight conference wins, including the toppling of No. 10 Minnesota last weekend. It was no easy feat, but NU pushed Michigan to its limits and found its fourth conference win.

NU lost the first set 22-25 after a close back and forth battle. The Cats came out in the second set just as strong, and were able to shift critical points in the favor. After the 12-10 mark, no team was able to find greater than a 2-point lead. Thanks to a good amount of focus, NU was able to come up with a 25-23 victory.

The third set started in the same manner but tightened up quite a bit towards the end. Set points were traded between the teams until the Cats came out on top to take it 29-27.

By the fourth set, the Cats had really found their stride and would not let the Wolverines hold them back. The team took an early lead and, except for some sporadic runs from Michigan, never looked back. NU took the fourth and final set 25-18.

The match was an impressive one for junior outside hitter Stephanie Holthus, who put up a season-high 28 kills. Sophomore outside hitter Yewande Akanbi also found success with 12 kills, and both sophomore middle blockers Savannah Paffen and Katie Dutchman each put up six blocks.

The Cats showed up with a different mindset Saturday night, lacking the focus to pull out the win against Michigan State.

“We have to work on just responding better. We didn’t respond well to being challenged, and that was the difference,” coach Keylor Chan said.

NU hung with the Spartans for the first set, but was not able to stay consistent and finish through to the end. Michigan State won the first set 25-18. The Cats seemed to lose any momentum they may have had going into the second set, and really struggled to stay in points.

“When we’re playing bad we usually tense up, and that’s when we play our worst,” senior setter Madalyn Shalter said. “We just kind of let down again, focus-wise, which has been a common theme in our season.”

This lack of focus led NU to conclude the second set 17-25, which, despite the score, was a much more discouraging loss than the first.

The Cats started the third set looking somewhat better than the last, but to no avail. By the 10-12 point, Michigan State had gained enough momentum to carry itself to the end of the match. A bevy of multi-point runs took the Spartans to a 25-15 third and final set win.

For Chan, the entirety of Saturday night was a failure to meet expectations.

“(The problem) wasn’t set to set, it was more match to match,” he said. “We played so well (against Michigan) and then (Saturday) we just couldn’t put that same kind of effort and execution together, and it showed.”