Volleyball: Wildcats head to Nebraska hoping to reverse road struggles

Max Gelman, Reporter

After two disappointing losses last week against No. 5 Penn State and Ohio State, Northwestern (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten) will face No. 13 Nebraska (10-6, 4-2) Wednesday hoping to rebound after their first losing streak of the season.

Facing a tough opponent like Nebraska on the road can be challenging both physically and mentally, but coach Keylor Chan isn’t worried about the Wildcats.

“The realities of Big Ten volleyball are that it’s really hard to win on the road,” Chan said. “The best thing we can do is learn from our mistakes.”

Losses to top teams like the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes can be demoralizing and another match against a ranked opponent such as the Cornhuskers may seem daunting, but Chan insists that the Cats’ game plan won’t change.

“We’ll work on areas we feel we’re deficient in (in practice),” Chan said, “but overall we’ll just keep on staying with the plan we’ve had in place, making small adjustments here and there.”

The Cats current road stretch is arguably the most difficult slate of games this season. Following the losses to Penn State in straight sets and Ohio State three sets to one, NU is starting to show signs of weakness in the Big Ten portion of their schedule, although the match against the Buckeyes was much closer than the box score might suggest. NU’s opponents following the Cornhuskers include Iowa, Purdue, Indiana and Michigan to close out the month.

NU will need to rely on Symone Abbott and Taylor Tashima, two starting freshmen who have really boosted the Cats back into prominence this season. Last week, NU was ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2010 season.

Abbott is sixth in kills in the Big Ten with 209 – averaging 3.48 per set — while Tashima is fifth in assists in the conference with 515, an average of 10.73 per set. Additionally, Abbott has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice this season, and Tashima also earned the honor at the end of September.

Ultimately, the Cats are hoping to clinch their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010, when the team was defeated by unranked Missouri in the second round.

“It’s a long ways away, but I think in the backs of our minds, it’s definitely one of our goals,” Chan said. “(However,) we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, we just want to go ahead and do the best we can tomorrow (against Nebraska).”

If the Cats want to achieve their goal, they will have to persevere through the entire season, in good times and bad and especially during this rough stretch of conference games. The match Wednesday against the Cornhuskers starts at 7 p.m.

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