Volleyball: Cats wrap up Wildcat Challenge with win over Green Bay

Zach Moore, Reporter

Bring on the Big Ten.

Northwestern (10-1) defeated Green Bay (2-9) on Sunday with an easy three-set victory (25-12, 25-14, 25-18). With the win, the Wildcats improved to 2-0 all-time against Green Bay.

The Cats pounced on the Phoenix quickly. After opening an early 8-point lead, NU cruised through the first set, stifling the Green Bay counterattack and limiting them to only 12 points in the opening set.

Freshman Symone Abbott led a well-balanced Cats attack with a team-high 11 kills. NU had a total of five players with 5 or more kills. The Cats did not make it easy for Green Bay to score in the match. NU matched their 41 kills with 41 digs, led by senior Monica McGreal with 10 digs. The Cats had the whole court covered, as 10 players registered at least one dig.

The first set was a warm-up compared to the play for the Cats in the second set. NU increased its hitting percentage to a whopping .455, while holding Green Bay to a dismal -.154 in the second. The Cats had success with sophomore Candice Yager on serve throughout the match including 2 aces during a 9-point run midway in the set.

Green Bay kept it close for most of the third set before NU pulled away. Senior Katie Dutchman ended the match with one of her three blocks. The Cats controlled the net most of the match. The stingy NU defense held Green Bay to only 44 points over three sets, the lowest total for a Cats opponent this season.

It is this type of team defensive effort that the Cats will need going forward into a brutal Big Ten conference schedule. There are currently six Big Ten teams ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll top 20.

NU has only been able to reach double-digit conference wins twice under coach Keylor Chan (10 wins in 2002 and 2005). However, the Cats’ last trip to the NCAA tournament was in 2010 after starting the season 10-1.

NU can expect to take its share of bumps along the way, but it is up to the senior-led Cats to weather the storm.

“All of our seniors have come in in a different way (this year),” Dutchman said last week. “Monica is the vocal leader. She keeps everyone focused and pumped up, and (redshirt junior Caroline Niedospial) is the silent leader.”

As the Cats prepare to open the Big Ten slate against Rutgers on Friday, they can be proud of what they accomplished in nonconference play thus far. But they will need to continue to improve in order to be a force in conference play.

NU enters uncharted territory welcoming Big Ten newcomers Rutgers and Maryland in the first two conference matches. It is imperative that the Cats get off to a fast start in the Big Ten before a tough October schedule.

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