The Daily Northwestern

Volleyball: Wildcats’ slide continues with two weekend losses

Max Gelman, Reporter

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Not even a lineup change could help Northwestern this past weekend.

After losing four straight games on the road, coach Keylor Chan decided to switch things up against No. 13 Purdue and Indiana by playing two setters instead of one. The results? Two crushing five-set losses.

“I think it really just makes us more dynamic and gives us a lot more options,” sophomore setter Caleigh Ryan said of the new lineup after the loss to the Hoosiers. “(Freshman setter) Taylor Tashima is an excellent hitter and I think that despite the really great volleyball we’ve played the past couple of days, the more time we practice the six-two (lineup), the more comfortable everybody’s going to get.”

The Wildcats got off to a much-needed fast start against the Boilermakers, winning both of the first two sets by 25-20 scores. Attacking efficiency, something NU struggled with during their road trip, was one of the team’s strongest parts of their game early in this match, outhitting Purdue .273-.169 through two frames. NU also managed to hold off a Boilermaker rally late in the second set behind the serving of senior Monica McGreal.

However, Purdue was able to win the third and fourth sets 25-23 and 28-26, respectively. The Boilermakers won the third off a late 7-1 run and the fourth even after the Cats managed to rally from behind. Only after numerous back-and-forth rallies and a controversial call by the line judge did Purdue clinch the fourth set. A crushing blow to NU, they couldn’t recover and dropped the final set 15-11.

Benefitting from the new lineup, Tashima had nine kills on the night, a career high. Sophomore Kayla Morin led the team with 22 kills, while freshman Symone Abbott added 14 and redshirt senior Katie Dutchman contributed with 12.

“I really had no doubt in my mind that we could win,” Dutchman said after the loss. “Unfortunately we just came up short.”

The Cats looked to rebound the next night versus Indiana after nearly pulling off the upset. Rolling with the same two-setter lineup, NU dropped the close first set 25-23. Indiana got off to a quick start in the second, but NU was able to rally back, tying the score at 10 because of a 10-4 run. A rare mental lapse by Tashima on a Hoosier serve that hit the net and died on the NU side of the court seemed to prove costly, but the Cats rebounded and took the second set by a score of 25-22 and evened up the match at 1-1.

The third and fourth sets were also close, with NU taking the third 28-26 and the Hoosiers winning the fourth 25-23. After a 24-all tie in set three, NU managed to pull ahead and, with emotions running high, took a 2-1 lead. During the next set, neither team took more than a 2-point lead. Despite the tight match, the Cats couldn’t put the final nail in the coffin, and, for the third straight match, NU played in a fifth set.

Tashima led the team in kills against Indiana with 14, breaking her personal high set the night before.

In a scary moment in the final frame, redshirt junior libero Caroline Niedospial collided with Morin, banging her jaw against her teammate’s shoulder. Niedospial was forced from the game, and though it appeared that she could have returned, she was ineligible after being subbed out. Indiana took the fifth and final set 15-13. NU’s losing streak sits at six, its longest since an eight-game losing streak that closed out the 2008 season.

“Carks (Niedospial) is the toughest kid that I know,” Ryan said. “I have no doubt that she will be back on the floor game time Friday.”

The Cats will take on the Michigan Wolverines on Friday in Ann Arbor, looking to win their first match since Oct. 5.