Volleyball: Freshman Abbott carries Wildcats to win over No. 18 Minnesota

Max Gelman, Reporter

The Wildcats defeated No. 18 Minnesota in three sets Sunday, moving to 3-1 in Big Ten play and 13-2 overall.

Freshman Symone Abbott set a new single-game personal high with 21 kills, receiving high praise from coach Keylor Chan.

“She erases mistakes,” Chan said after the game. “When you can set up a hitter and she can terminate and finish the point, it really allows the team to have confidence in knowing that they’re not going to see another ball coming back at them. I think that’s huge.”

Redshirt junior Caroline Niedospial was also impressed with the freshman.

“It’s hard to come into the Big Ten as a freshman and really contribute,” Niedospial said. “She’s a stud.”

Both teams came into the game looking to get back in the win column. Northwestern just had a seven-game win streak snapped last Wednesday against No. 6 Wisconsin, while Minnesota followed up a ten-game winning streak with two straight losses.

From the beginning, these two teams were evenly matched, trading kill after kill. The first 20 total points were split evenly at ten apiece. When the Golden Gophers started pulling away in the first set, the Cats refused to give up, never falling more than 4 points behind and eventually tying the game at 24. Two straight kills by senior Yewande Akanbi closed out the set in NU’s favor, 26-24.

Abbott led NU in kills during the first set with five, and Akanbi had four, while Taylor Tashima, Maddie Slater, Katie Dutchman and Kayla Morin each added three. For Minnesota, Daly Santana led the Gophers with five kills and Hannah Tapp added three of her own.

NU came out roaring in the second set, winning 5 of the first 6 points and 9 of the first 12. After that, the Cats were up by at least 4 points for most of the set, leading by as many as 7 at one point. Minnesota never looked like they had a chance, but this time they were the team who rallied near the end of the set to tie the game at 24. After trading each of the next 6 points, NU finally came through to win the second set, 29-27.

With a total of 15 kills at the close of the second set, Abbott began closing in on her personal single-game record for kills. The freshman’s previous high, 17, came against Ohio University a couple of weeks ago.

“If we have a great set and everything’s going well, the hitter should be able to put the ball down,” a humble Abbott said after the game. “That’s all I’m doing, is putting the ball down.”

The third set opened with Minnesota charging in front, winning 8 of the first 11 points. NU really struggled to get anything going at the start of this set; however, they fought back and tied the set at 12. Following a series of 14 points where no team took more than a 2-point lead with the set tied at 19, the Wildcats began to pull away. NU won 6 of the final 7 points, winning the set 25-20 and winning the match in straight sets.

“We really executed a great game plan (today),” Chan said after the game. “It won’t get any easier versus Penn State (next Wednesday).”

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