Volleyball: Wildcats look for big upset against No. 6 Badgers

Zach Moore, Reporter

Northwestern (12-1, 2-0 Big Ten) heads into Wednesday’s match against sixth-ranked Wisconsin (10-2, 1-1 Big Ten) after winning their last seven matches. Despite the strong start to the season, the Wildcats will face their toughest opponent so far when the Badgers head to Welsh-Ryan Arena.

NU has defended at an extremely high level this season, holding opponents to just a .134 hitting percentage, the second lowest in the Big Ten only to Penn State. The Cats will need continued stellar play from junior Caroline Niedospial and senior Katie Dutchman in leading the defense.

Defense will be a key in slowing down the Wisconsin attack. The Badgers are led by seniors Ellen Chapman and Courtney Thomas. Chapman and Thomas each have 120 or more kills this season. But the Cats have three players — freshman Symone Abbott, senior Yewande Akanbi and sophomore Kayla Morin — who also have more than 120 kills each.

Freshmen will have a big impact on the match for both teams. Badgers freshman Kelli Bates and NU freshmen Symone Abbott and Taylor Tashima will play important roles in Wednesday’s match. Both Abbott and Tashima have been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week this season. Tashima recently was given the honor after she opened Big Ten play with two strong performances against Rutgers and Maryland.

“We are ready,” Tashima said. “We have been practicing all season just like any other Big Ten team. We are ready to make an impact in the Big Ten. We’re ready to take on any team that comes at us.”

A Cats win on Wednesday would put the Big Ten on notice. NU is currently not ranked in the top 25 but continues to gain votes in the poll. Without a doubt, a win in this match would catapult the Cats into the top 25.

Before they are able to get the win, there are two areas NU will need to clean up before the match. Uncharacteristically, the Cats had some servicing issues during their first two Big Ten matches.

“I would like us to clean up the servicing game,” coach Keylor Chan said.

Another concern is the Cats’ passing game.

“We have to pass a lot better,” Chan said “That is the key. When we pass, we can hang with any team.”

NU is 29-48 all-time against Wisconsin, but the Cats will look to add another victory to the win column.

After Saturday’s win over Maryland, Chan said, “We are not ready now, but we will be ready on Wednesday.”

Email: [email protected]